Both NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant have labelled the state's outbreak a "national emergency", calling for an urgent increase in vaccination in affected areas.
It comes after the state recorded 136 cases of local transmission in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, of which less than four in every 10 were known to be in isolation for their entire infectious period.
Therefore, 83 of the new cases were either active in the community, only isolated for part of their infectious period, or their movement are unknown.
Berejiklian indicated that from today "the New South Wales Government will be calling on the Federal Government to refocus our national vaccination strategy" to prevent the outbreak spilling across state borders.
Dr Chant explained a rethink was needed given case numbers were not going down or flattening as authorities would have liked, calling to break the "myth" around AstraZeneca so that more over-40s get the vaccine, and more under-40s consider it.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard emphasised that while the probability of death from COVID was one in 200 for older populations, the probability of death from AstraZeneca-related complications was more like one in two million
With growing clusters concentrated in Western and Southwestern Sydney, Dr Chant recommended the refocused vaccine strategy should specifically target the existing key areas of concern in the local government areas (LGAs) of Fairfield, Canterbury, Bankstown and Liverpool, but also new LGAs with heightened restrictions - Blacktown and Cumberland.
Workers in Blacktown and Cumberland will now also be subject to rules that won't allow them to leave their communities, unless they are registered on an authorised list of "critical workers".
"What we've done as a government is is refocus our efforts in distributing vaccines in Southwest Sydney - we have a micro-plan for how we will get not only more doses of AstraZeneca in arms, but we also have to acknowledge that is a very young population in those communities, and we need at least more first doses of Pfizer," the Premier said.
"We will be taking to National Cabinet, through the advice of the chief medical officer, our strong advice and recommendation that consideration be given to at least having more people have at least one dose of either vaccine, which reduces transmission.
"Fortunately, one thing that's become apparent during the last few weeks is that barely anybody with two doses of the vaccine is having acquired serious illness. The vaccines are working."
She reiterated the vaccines help stop high rates of transmission which means stopping people spreading it as much as they otherwise would, or stopping people from getting very sick.
The Premier noted the virus continued to spread mostly through households and workplaces, with the latter coming from essential businesses that keep Sydney working and fed, such as in critical food outlets and critical distribution chains.
As lockdowns continue to impact residents living in those areas, Berejiklian hinted the NSW government will be considering "additional support" to those areas in the days to come.
Berejiklian said the lockdown is likely to be extended.
"There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping," the Premier said.
"It's fairly apparent that we won't be close to zero by next Friday."
Sadly, NSW Health also reported the death of an 89-year-old resident today.
Updated at 12.52am AEST on 23 July 2021.
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