Parts of regional NSW to enter seven-day Covid lockdown as premier vows to restart Sydney construction

The Covid crisis in NSW has extended to the state’s central west with three regional local government areas to be locked down for a week as the state battles a spreading Delta outbreak.

Orange, Cabonne and Blayney council areas will enter a seven-day lockdown from midnight until 12.01am on Wednesday 28 July after a raft of exposure sites were reported in Orange on Tuesday.

“We understand this is a difficult time for the community and appreciate their ongoing patience,” NSW Health said in a statement on Tuesday night.

The lockdown comes after a pet food factory worker in Blayney tested positive to Covid. They were a close contact of an infected delivery driver who visited the site last week.

Five exposures sites, including a Pizza Hut, a Woolworths and an Officeworks, were listed in Orange on Tuesday.

Residents of the three council areas must only leave home for essential reasons, including shopping for food and essential items, medical care, and work or education where it can’t be done from home.

Exercise is limited to two people together or members of the same household.

NSW Health said weddings and funerals could take place until Thursday night after which only funerals would be permitted and capped at 10 people.

Meanwhile, the state government plans to reopen Sydney’s construction industry at the end of the month, with the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, saying earlier on Tuesday “green shoots are showing” as a result of the greater Sydney lockdown.

Berejiklian said she had “made a commitment” to the industry to get construction workers back to work by 31 July and that the current rules banning construction work were a “pause” only to allow workplaces to introduce Covid-safe plans.

The state recorded 78 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday, a drop on earlier case numbers.

But only 37 – less than half – were in isolation during the whole of their infectious period. About 21 were infectious in the community, eight were partially isolating and 12 cases were under investigation.

The NSW government introduced a more stringent lockdown on Saturday amid concerns that large numbers of workers were leaving the hotspots in south-west Sydney to attend work.

Construction sites were shut down and other non-essential retail and all office workplaces have been ordered to close.

The shutdown of construction in greater Sydney for two weeks affects 250,000 workers and will deliver a hit to the NSW economy of about $1.4bn.

Berejiklian said the treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, and the deputy premier, John Barilaro, were consulting with the industry but the chief health officer, Kerry Chant, was also being asked for her views. Both are known sceptics of lockdowns.

“There definitely will be construction on 31st,” she said.

What was expected of construction sites would be publicised well in advance of 31 July but she said the government was not keen on rules that limited works to 25% of the normal workforce on site.

But there were no commitments about lifting rules in other workplaces by the end of this current two-week lockdown with both Chant and Berejiklian warning that households and workplaces remained the most likely settings for transmission.

While most transmission was still occurring in the household, Chant said transmission via the workplace “is setting off little fires” and infecting new households.

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She also said there were still unlinked cases which means there are chains of transmission which have not been identified.

She has called on residents of Canterbury-Bankstown, Hurstville, Kogarah, Guildford, Rooty Hill and Greystanes to come forward for testing.

Berejiklian urged employers of workers in essential industries such as supermarkets, aged care and pharmacies to ensure that workers were kept apart as much as possible including in places such break rooms.

“The harder we work now the sooner we will get out of it,” she said. “There are green shoots.”

But even as the government was optimistic about case numbers, health authorities were urgently looking into a case in the Orange region to determine whether there had been spread due to infected truck drivers travelling through the region.

On Monday, a woman in her 50s – believed to be the mother of the two infected removalists who travelled through western NSW – died at home in south-west Sydney prompting questions about the circumstances.

NSW health minister says Covid 'anti-vaxxers live in another universe' as 78 cases recorded – video
NSW health minister says Covid ‘anti-vaxxers live in another universe’ as 78 cases recorded – video

“Anyone who needs urgent care can get urgent care,” Chant said. “If they have symptoms and are worried, they should ring their GP.”

Chant said it was her understanding that “care was offered to the family” but she did not elaborate.

She warned the health of Covid patients “can deteriorate rapidly” and that people could go from being well to needing intensive care treatment within a day.