The New South Wales premier has acknowledged that without dramatically lower case numbers, even opening up at 80% vaccination rates will be difficult, as hopes of a lighter lockdown beyond August fade.
The state reported 478 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases – another record daily high – as Gladys Berejiklian warned the state could reach 1,000 new cases a day soon if people did not follow the public health orders.
“We absolutely could if people keep ignoring the rules,” she said.
“The most important thing is for people to stay at home. Don’t leave home unless you have to. It is frustrating. Every day when we get examples of a handful of people doing the wrong thing: having parties or having gatherings they shouldn’t be having or leaving the house when they have got symptoms and they haven’t been tested,” Berejiklian said.
“They’re not a lot of examples but only four or five across the population causes enormous grief.”
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The police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said he had instructed officers to “go hard” but they still had discretion to issue warnings.
“I won’t be asking for any additional police or health orders at the moment because we need to give the strategy a chance. Every strategy takes seven to 14 days – whether it is a police strategy or a health strategy – to see what impact that has on the Covid numbers.”
The chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said people should “stay home and leave your home for the most minimum of time, and every time you’re out and about, assume you have the infection or that you will come in contact with someone who may have the infection.”
Most of the new cases were again in south-west Sydney, notably in Canterbury Bankstown, with 88 cases, Cumberland with 93 and Blacktown with 62.
But there were also 35 new cases in western NSW, with the majority in Dubbo, mainly among Aboriginal people.
There were seven deaths in the reporting period. A 15-year-old boy, who was in hospital being treated for pneumococcal meningitis and was diagnosed with Covid, has also died.
The entire state is now in lockdown, though the rules vary between hotspot areas, the greater Sydney region and the rest of the state.
Berejiklian now appears to have abandoned her earlier suggestions that there could be some relaxation of the lockdown rules at the end of the month, as the case numbers continue to soar.
She has refused to say what the requirement of “close to zero cases infectious in the community” means in order to lift the lockdown, but has referred to Doherty Institute modelling that suggested vaccination rates of 70% and 80% would need to be combined with low case numbers before restrictions could be eased.
“If you read the Doherty Institute report, that is based on the premise of 30 to 40 cases in relation to all the things you can do,” Berejiklian said.
“You can live life more freely than what you are today but the extent of your freedom depends on case numbers. If case numbers are where they are now and we get to 80% double doses, we won’t be able to do everything that we want to do.”
“What I have just said is no different to what we have said for weeks and weeks and weeks.
“Whilst Covid is active globally, and whilst the Delta strain is causing carnage all around the world, we can’t pretend we will get to zero and stay at zero forever,” Berejiklian said.
“Let me make this very clear, which I have said from day one: it is always our aspiration and we have to work hard to get the case numbers down. But to suggest that we are going to have zero the whole way through until the pandemic ends across the world is, I don’t think, a realistic proposition.”
Unlike the Victorian government, which made public details of where transmission was occurring, the NSW government does not provide detailed figures of whether transmission is occurring in homes or in workplaces, and in what types of work.
The premier declined to say whether the reopening of construction sites had contributed to the increase in cases.
On the outbreak in western NSW, the deputy premier, John Barilaro, was quizzed on whether the rural and regional health network could cope. He said: “Am I confident that we can manage the health system in regional and rural New South Wales? Of course we can.
“Look at what we did overnight with Walgett, the ability to redirect resources into Walgett. The Royal Flying Doctors going into Wilcannia on Saturday with 320 vaccine shots on Saturday and staying there for a couple of days. We have a network in the regions that work together.”
Barilaro described the statewide lockdown as “precautionary” .
However, there are signs there could be more regional outbreaks coming. Authorities have found traces of the virus in the sewage systems at Bourke, Parkes, Lennox Head and Wallacia.
In the ACT, the lockdown has been extended for two weeks after 19 new local Covid cases were reported, including an aged care worker.
The ACT chief minister, Andrew Barr, said he would prefer that federal parliament did not return next week. He had spoken with Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese this morning about the issue.
“They need to consider the urgency of a federal parliamentary sitting and whether it is required,” Barr said.
“My preference would be that they don’t, unless they absolutely have to. And if they did, it would need to be under a minimal setting and absolutely Covid-safe.”