Saturday was meant to be the day Greater Sydney emerged from a two-week lockdown, but instead the city recorded another 50 cases and woke to its toughest COVID-19 restrictions in more than a year.
The new cases were diagnosed from more than 42,000 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday, and include 37 people who were active in the community for all or part of their infectious period.
It is the worst day of the current virus outbreak, prompting the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian to again warn lockdown is likely to be extended.
“The only conclusion we can draw is that things are going to get worse before they get better,” she told reporters on Saturday.
She again appealed for Sydneysiders to stop bending the lockdown rules, citing at least two people who police caught holding illegal gatherings overnight.
“The vast majority of those (new) cases are close family or friends of people who have COVID,” she told reporters.
“If you truly love your parents, your sisters, your best friends, please stick to the rules.”
The state’s health department on Saturday afternoon issued warnings for nearly 30 exposure sites across Sydney.
They include a Penrith Barbeques Galore, a Bunnings in Padstow, a Centennial Park cafe and other sites in Sydney’s west, southwest, south, east and northwest.
Sydneysiders are now required to wear masks in all indoor areas of construction sites, with face coverings also required in lifts and lobbies of apartment blocks from July 13.
Fines or infringement notices were handed out to 167 people over the reporting period, including 67 in southwestern Sydney and about a dozen in the state’s north.
“Cutting corners, flouting the rules, is going to prolong the lockdown, and that’s the last thing any of us want to see,” the premier said.
“We are not asking for much given the situation we are all in.”
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant made an impassioned plea for people to be truthful with contact tracers, after the premier said the “vast majority” of new cases were being obstructive.
“We know that everyone is human and makes poor decisions at certain times, but please don’t compound that initial mistake by not telling us the truth the first time,” Dr Chant said.
“At the moment, as we’re trying to get ahead of the spread of the virus, we haven’t got time to waste unpicking stories, going back and cross-checking and verifying.”
Some 47 COVID-19 patients in NSW have been admitted to hospital, of which 16, including a teenager, are in intensive care and four are ventilated, including one person aged in their 20s.
“We have a number of young people in ICU at the moment and that is a phenomena we have not seen before,” the premier said.
However no one who has received two doses of either vaccine has been hospitalised, Dr Chant said.
When announcing the tough new restrictions on Friday, the premier said a premature reopening of Greater Sydney could result in thousands of coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
The new rules limit exercise to groups of two and ban browsing at shops, among other restrictions.
They also permit only one person per household to leave the home for shopping each day, and limit funerals to 10 people.
Australian Associated Press