Covid Sydney: Delta outbreak the ‘worst NSW has had’ since pandemic began in 2020

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Sydney is suffering through its biggest Covid outbreak of the entire pandemic with more cases in a month than the entire first wave.

The outbreak which began on June 16 has infected 1,242 people so far, including 105 on Sunday, compared to 1,233 in the first wave from February to May 2020. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly warned the Delta variant of the virus posed the greatest threat the state has faced thus far.

On Sunday, she again warned ‘this strain is unlike anything we’ve ever seen’ just 24 hours after admitting she ‘can’t remember a time when our state has been challenged to such an extent’.

As of Sunday, she is already frustratingly correct. 

NSW spent six weeks in lockdown from mid-March 2020 along with the rest of the nation as the federal government drew up a plan to stymie the virus nation wide. 

A graph of all the new cases over the seven eight days and the updated daily averages illustrates that infections are still on the rise

There were 1,233 cases in Sydney's first Covid outbreak between March and May, including the passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship. Pictured: A woman wearing a mask during Sydney's first Covid outbreak

There were 1,233 cases in Sydney's first Covid outbreak between March and May, including the passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship. Pictured: A woman wearing a mask during Sydney's first Covid outbreak

There were 1,233 cases in Sydney’s first Covid outbreak between March and May, including the passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship. Pictured: A woman wearing a mask during Sydney’s first Covid outbreak

The state faced several Covid crises – from the Ruby Princess outbreak to cases spreading from the Crossroads Hotel in Casula and most recently a cluster in the Northern Beaches which forced all residents north of the Spit Bridge into lockdown.

In total, NSW has recorded 6,833 Covid cases across the entire 18 months the virus has been a threat, including those acquired overseas.

But 1,242 of those cases were recorded in just four short weeks since the current cluster was first reported on June 16. 

In contrast, there were 1,233 cases in Sydney’s first Covid outbreak between February and May, including the passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

The first wave ended on May 25 when NSW’s run of zero transmission days began, and ended on June 5 when a truck driver started an outbreak visiting the Crossroads Hotel in Casula on a run from virus-plagued Melbourne.

Between June and November 2020, 625 NSW residents caught the virus locally as that outbreak bubbled away but was contained without harsh restrictions. 

While the virus initially spread from Bondi and Sydney's east, the southwest is now considered the epicenter of the virus. Pictured: People preparing for a sunrise swim in Manly on Sunday

While the virus initially spread from Bondi and Sydney's east, the southwest is now considered the epicenter of the virus. Pictured: People preparing for a sunrise swim in Manly on Sunday

While the virus initially spread from Bondi and Sydney’s east, the southwest is now considered the epicenter of the virus. Pictured: People preparing for a sunrise swim in Manly on Sunday

Most concerning for authorities is the difficulty they're having in dragging the curve down as they beg Sydneysiders to comply with regulations

Most concerning for authorities is the difficulty they're having in dragging the curve down as they beg Sydneysiders to comply with regulations

Most concerning for authorities is the difficulty they’re having in dragging the curve down as they beg Sydneysiders to comply with regulations

During the Northern Beaches cluster of late 2020 to early 2021, 151 cases were officially linked to the initial source of infection, but over that period of time, 226 people across the state were infected.

Those numbers are well below the 1,242 already identified in the last four weeks – and the outbreak is still on the rise. 

The virus initially spread from Bondi and Sydney’s east, but the southwest is now considered the epicentre of the virus.

Of the 105 cases reported on Sunday, 79 were diagnosed in the local government areas of Fairfield, Liverpool or Canterbury.  

Most concerning for authorities is the difficulty they’re having in dragging the curve down.

A graph of all the new cases over the past eight days and the updated daily averages illustrates that infections are still gradually increasing – albeit slower than two weeks ago. 

The number of new daily cases appeared to peak on July 12 at 112 when infections hovered between 65 and 97 in the four days to follow.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly warned the Delta variant of the virus poses the greatest threat we've faced thus far

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly warned the Delta variant of the virus poses the greatest threat we've faced thus far

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly warned the Delta variant of the virus poses the greatest threat we’ve faced thus far

Sydneysiders are allowed out of their homes to exercise with one other person

Sydneysiders are allowed out of their homes to exercise with one other person

Sydneysiders are allowed out of their homes to exercise with one other person

But hopes were dashed on Saturday when the state recorded 111 cases – followed by a second consecutive day of triple figures with 105 new diagnoses on Sunday. 

Ms Berejiklian repeatedly said numbers would continue to ‘bounce around’ as contact tracers work to stay on top of the virus’ spread.

With the daily average increasing by about 10 each day over the last week alone, it’s clear authorities are struggling to keep up.

Less than a week ago on July 10, the daily average was 32.5 new cases.

But in just six days, that number has more than doubled to 83.8 new cases by Friday. Average cases appear to be trending up by about 10 each day.

As of Sunday, the daily average case number is 96.5. 

It’s unlikely Ms Berejiklian and chief health officer Kerry Chant will even consider easing Sydney’s lockdown until these figures stabilise and drop.

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Pictured: People in Lakemba sit outside a building on Sunday after learning of the city's tough new restrictions

Pictured: People in Lakemba sit outside a building on Sunday after learning of the city's tough new restrictions

Pictured: People in Lakemba sit outside a building on Sunday after learning of the city’s tough new restrictions

Sydney has been in lockdown for three weeks and the premier has already announced a two-week extension – but there are concerns stay-at-home orders will remain in place well beyond the expected date.   

Dr Chant said on Friday she is ‘not pleased’ that transmission of the virus ‘appears to be ongoing’.

‘We need to disrupt the cycle, our mobility and other interactions,’ she said.    

Ms Berejiklian introduced particularly tough restrictions on residents in the LGAs of Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury on Saturday in an attempt to stem the spread of Covid in those regions.

She later admitted doing so was one of the hardest decisions she’s had to make as premier to date. 

‘Yesterday was a very, very difficult day for everybody, for everybody. And I am not embarrassed to say that in public life, yesterday was probably the most difficult day I’ve had,’ she said.

Sydney has been in lockdown for three weeks and the premier has already announced a two-week extension - but there are concerns stay-at-home orders will remain in place well beyond the expected date

Sydney has been in lockdown for three weeks and the premier has already announced a two-week extension - but there are concerns stay-at-home orders will remain in place well beyond the expected date

Sydney has been in lockdown for three weeks and the premier has already announced a two-week extension – but there are concerns stay-at-home orders will remain in place well beyond the expected date

Sydneysiders have been turning out for Covid testing in droves as the Delta variant of the virus spreads

Sydneysiders have been turning out for Covid testing in droves as the Delta variant of the virus spreads

Sydneysiders have been turning out for Covid testing in droves as the Delta variant of the virus spreads

But she felt it was the only way to keep people safe and reduce the risk of transmission after the data proved they’re ‘still not managing to get the curve of transmission to come down’.

The 810,000 people living in those regions were initially told they cannot leave their suburbs even for work unless they’re employed in healthcare, aged care or emergency services until at least July 30. 

Any essential employees who are permitted to leave their suburbs for work are subject to the same restrictions previously in place, namely receiving a negative Covid test every three days. 

The announcement sparked frenzied calls to authorities and confusion over other industries which have otherwise been deemed essential.

In response, Ms Berejiklian’s team amended the criteria late on Saturday night, extending the parameters to include people working at garden centres, bottle shops and factories.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly said numbers will continue to 'bounce around' as contact tracers work to stay on top of the virus' spread

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly said numbers will continue to 'bounce around' as contact tracers work to stay on top of the virus' spread

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly said numbers will continue to ‘bounce around’ as contact tracers work to stay on top of the virus’ spread

 Delivery drivers, and people who work at supermarkets, newsagents or are required to maintain utilities like gas, electricity, waste management or water are also permitted to leave their locked-down suburbs for work. 

In an attempt to ease the financial burden of lockdown on small businesses, Ms Berejiklian also announced a relief package totalling $4billion. 

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said businesses could start applying for the tax-free grants of between $7,500 and $15,000 from Monday.

‘There are a range of initiatives available to help small businesses with cashflow, rent costs, electricity and the like,’ he said. 

The applications will be available on Service NSW and are expected to be processed within five days, but Mr Perrottet warned there could be delays on Monday as people rush to see if they qualify. 

‘If you contact Service NSW, you will be able to obtain what support packages are available to you. Please access that grant program.’ 

The grant will be available to NSW businesses that make more than $75,000 and up to $50 million, and have a total annual wages bill of below $10 million. 

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