Hunter residents will be limited to five household guests, including children, for the next 13 days, and mask-wearing will be compulsory in all indoor, non-residential areas, including workplaces, as regional NSW faces restrictions to stem the latest outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney.
The state recorded 29 new cases - including 17 already announced - in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday, prompting Premier Gladys Berejiklian enforce a broader fortnight-long lockdown for Greater Sydney, and impose public health order restrictions on the regions, on Saturday afternoon.
Residents of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Hunter Valley have been urged to adhere to the restrictions, which also include a four-square-metre social distancing guideline for all indoor and outdoor areas, and limits on the number of patrons allowed at organised and ticketed events, as concerns that case numbers could rise continue to mount.
Ms Berejiklian told Sydneysiders - and particularly residents of the seven local government areas at the heart of the latest outbreak - to "not set a foot" outside the city on Saturday morning to protect regional areas from transmission,
"We do not want this virus transmission in our regions," she said. "We do not want this virus to spread beyond the suburbs and local government areas where it's particularly circulating."
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However the concern of health authorities is rapidly growing, as more than half of the newly recorded cases were not in isolation during their infection period.
"What we're finding is by the time we've got to some of those cases, they've already on-transmitted," Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said. "The last thing we want to see out of this is any seeding of our rural and regional communities."
The Sydney outbreak has been linked to the Delta variant of the virus, which Health Minister Brad Hazzard described as a "a very formidable foe" in comments made at the weekend.
"No matter what defensive steps we're taking, at the moment, the virus seems to understand how to counter attack in different locations, that's causing us a high level of concern," he said.
"It's a formidable foe, and we're only going to beat it if we're all in this together and making sure that we just stop and spread."
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Unlike other variants, the Premier said, the Delta strain appears to be more transmissible, particularly among household contacts.
"This is different to what we've seen before," Ms Berejiklian said, describing the unfolding outbreak "the scariest time NSW has seen during the course of the pandemic".
At pubs and clubs in the Hunter, patrons will be required to sit, and dancing will not be allowed at indoor hospitality venues or nightclubs. Dancing will be allowed at weddings, however, for the wedding party only and to a maximum of 20 people.
Singing by audiences and choirs at indoor venues or by congregants at indoor places of worship will not be allowed.
Dance and gym classes limited to 20 per class with compulsory mask-wearing, and anyone who has been in the Greater Sydney region June 21 must immediately follow the stay-at-home orders for a period of 14 days after they left the city.
"We have always indicated we will not hesitate to go further with restrictions to protect the people of NSW," NSW Health said in a statement Saturday afternoon. "We understand this is a difficult time for everyone, however we need to take these steps now to get on top of this outbreak."
What you need to know:
Expanded lockdowns and restrictions will take effect at 6pm Saturday, June 26, and continue until 11.59pm on Friday, July 9.
Everyone in Greater Sydney must stay at home unless it is for an essential reason.
The reasons you may leave your home include:
- Shopping for food or other essential goods and services;
- Medical care or compassionate needs (people can leave home to have a COVID-19 vaccination unless you have been identified as a close contact);
- Exercise outdoors in groups of 10 or fewer;
- Essential work, or education, where you cannot work or study from home.
In all other parts of NSW the following restrictions will apply:
- People who have been in the Greater Sydney region (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong) on or after June 21 should follow the stay-at-home orders for a period of 14 days after they left Greater Sydney.
- Visitors to households will be limited to 5 guests - including children;
- Masks will be compulsory in all indoor non-residential settings, including workplaces, and at organised outdoor events;
- Drinking while standing at indoor venues will not be allowed;
- Singing by audiences and choirs at indoor venues or by congregants at indoor places of worship will not be allowed;
- Dancing will not be allowed at indoor hospitality venues or nightclubs however, dancing is allowed at weddings for the wedding party only (no more than 20 people);
- Dance and gym classes limited to 20 per class (masks must be worn);
- The one person per four square metre rule will be re-introduced for all indoor and outdoor settings, including weddings and funerals;
- Outdoor seated, ticketed events will be limited to 50 per cent seated capacity.