NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced Greater Sydney’s lockdown will be extended by at least two weeks, naming Friday, 30 July as the earliest possible date for lifting the stay at home order.
It comes as the state recorded 97 new local coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with 24 of them in the community while infectious.
Sixty of those cases were in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period, seven were isolated for part of that period, and the isolation status of the remaining six cases is still under investigation.
Of the 97 new cases, 61 are linked to known clusters and 36 are under investigation.
“I appreciate people are stressed and upset about what is going on, myself included,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“None of us want to be in this situation.”
Home learning will continue for the duration of the two-week extension, except for the children of essential workers.
The premier did not rule out making further extensions to the lockdown, saying the number of people infectious in the community would be the most critical factor.
“The 24 number is what we have to get down to as close to zero as possible before we can end the lockdown,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We will obviously assess the situation at the end of the two weeks and provide further information beyond that.”
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said 70 of the new cases were from south-western Sydney.
“The pattern is household transmission, but we are seeing transmission in workplaces,” she said.
“Of today’s cases, the vast majority were in south-western Sydney, and most of these are from the local government area of Fairfield.”
The state moved to introduce mandatory testing for essential workers in the Fairfield local government area yesterday.
That resulted in hours-long waits for testing, with queues of cars stretching kilometres through suburban streets.
Asked if the state was ill-prepared for the surge in testing, Ms Berejiklian said her team was working with local health officials to ensure there were enough resources moving forward.
“We accept that people had to wait a long time, we experienced this as well on the Northern Beaches,” she said.
“I apologise if anyone was inconvenienced.”
There are currently 71 coronavirus patients in NSW hospitals, with 20 people in intensive care.
Four people are on ventilators.
More than 65,000 people came forward for testing in the past 24 hours.
The main areas of concern are Fairfield, Roselands, Rosebury, Canterbury, Belmore, the Sutherland Shire, the St George area, Windsor, St Ives, Penrith and Bayside.
Dr Chant said of the 20 people in intensive care, one is in their 20s, two are in their 30s, two are in their 40s, five are in their 50s, five are in their 60s, three are in their 70s and two are in their 80s.
“The reason I take the time to read out those age profiles is really is to dispel the misconception that COVID is mild in younger age groups,” she said.
“It still can be a serious illness requiring admission to ICU. So it is important to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, and please follow the public health advice.”
NSW Health on Wednesday afternoon added another 28 exposure venues including Strawberry Hills Post Shop, Bonnyrigg Bunnings, and supermarkets in Fairfield Heights, Waterloo, Merrylands, Fairfield, Riverwood, and Wetherill Park.
A service station at Hay in the Riverina region has also shut for deep cleaning.
Two people have died – a man in his 70s and a woman in her 90s – taking the NSW tally to 58 and the national death toll to 912 since the pandemic began last year.
Additional reporting: AAP