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Covid-19 News Updates
"Based on those numbers, we can only assume that things are likely to get worse before they get better," New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
New South Wales will increase its police presence in eight Western Sydney local government areas (LGAs) of concern to monitor compliance and crack down on uncooperative businesses as the state records 239 new cases of community transmission - the highest daily total in this latest outbreak and to date in 2021 for any state.
The eight LGAs of concern (Fairfield, Canterbury Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland, Blacktown, Parramatta, Georges River and Campbelltown) are now under new rules that will see masks mandatory everywhere outside of the house, and the imposition of a 5km travel limit.
It is part of the state's latest crackdown on the areas of concern, with compliance to be monitored by "thousands" of additional police which will be deployed in the LGAs today and given new powers to close a worksite or business if health orders are flouted.
"The powers particularly will focus on those people who are not doing the right thing," NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.
"Many will do the right thing - they will follow the health advice. They shouldn't be punished for the few who are doing the wrong thing."
In addition, the fine for not wearing a mask will be increased from $200 to $500 to allow for that extra level of compliance and ensure another layer of deterrence to those who would do the wrong thing.
Of today's 239 new COVID-19 cases, 88 were infectious in the community for all of part of their infectious period, and the isolation status of 70 cases remains under investigation.
"Most of these transmissions are occurring amongst households and in workplaces, but also in health settings," Premier Berejiklian said.
"If you are going to a pharmacist or GP, make sure you don't have symptoms. Make sure that you're asking for medical help from home."
Updated at 11.28am AEST on 29 July 2021.
With all eyes on the Sydney COVID-19 outbreak where another month of lockdown was announced yesterday, the minor inconvenience of having to wear masks for another week will be a small price to pay for residents and visitors in Southeast Queensland.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young has repeatedly emphasised the beneficial - although not panacean - effects of mask wearing in containing the spread of COVID-19, so it is unsurprising the requirement has been extended for seven more days given the uncertainty around the spread from new cases.
There were no new community-transmitted cases of the virus announced overnight, but more details have emerged about yesterday's new case, most importantly that he flew to Western Australia after completing hotel quarantine and was sent back to Queensland, that he was in a shared room at a Brisbane hostel, and that he has the Alpha strain of COVID-19.
"I can report now that the genomic sequencing has come in from the gentleman who came in from the Philippines to Brisbane and who is staying at the Roma Street City Backpackers. What we have identified is he is a direct match with three other travellers who he was on two flights with - Philippines to PNG and PNG to Brisbane," Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said.
Those three travellers had different hotel quarantine arrangements to the case concerned who was at Quest Chermside, which D'Ath said confirmed he had contracted the virus while in transit on the plane or through the airport.
"We can confirm also that it is the alpha variant that we are dealing with. I want to thank the Backpackers because the manager there has been absolutely incredible, provided a lot of data which has allowed us to identify and test all individuals associated with that Backpackers," D'Ath said.
Authorities have received 59 negative results from the 62 people exposed to the gentleman in the hostel, with the remaining three results expected today as they were taken last night.
But it is the story of how he ended up at the backpackers that raises the most questions, particularly given his long incubation period with the virus.
"We know that around 1 per cent of people can have an incubation period of longer than 14 days, as has happened with this gentleman," Dr Young explained.
"When he got out of hotel quarantine here in Brisbane, had done his 14 days and got three negative tests, he then on-travelled to Western Australia but they turned him around - they put him into a hotel for two days till there was a suitable flight, and then he was placed on that flight and returned to Queensland.
"I'm just getting the details of that flight he was on. I don't have that yet, but we will contact trace the people who sat around him given he's got the Alpha variant."
Young said when the man arrived back in Brisbane he was already starting to have some symptoms of COVID-19 and upon arrival at the hostel he "essentially stayed in his room there because he was starting to feel increasingly unwell".
"The other two people in the room have tested negative which is good," she said.
Dr Young added the individuals who were at the hostel will be tested frequently.
"We're going to keep those people in the backpackers hotel, we're not moving them into a quarantine hotel, because we're quite comfortable with some extra support for that hotel. We can manage all of these people there - we'll just have to work out which of them have been close contacts and which [are] casual, so who needs to remain there and who we can allow to return to their normal lives.
"We still have those other outbreaks that we're managing with large numbers of contacts," she said, adding there were currently 2,000 people in home quarantine in Queensland.
"It's too early for us to relax at this stage, which is why I've asked that masks remain in place for the 11 LGAs (local government areas) for another week," she said.
Updated at 11:02am AEST on 29 July 2021.
The Federal Government's COVID-19 Disaster Payment will see eligible Australians receive financial support more in line with what was on offer through the now-defunct JobKeeper programme, following an upgrade of the emergency payments.
Announced today, the government has upped support to eligible workers who will now receive $750 per week if they lose 20 hours or more of work due to state government lockdown restrictions, while those who lose between eight and less than 20 hours will receive $450 per week.
The new level of payment for the top tranche of workers ($750 per week) is equivalent to what the Commonwealth previously offered through the JobKeeper programme.
That support, which ended earlier this year, saw the Federal Government support businesses and workers with a $1,500 per fortnight wage subsidy paid to employees via their employer.
The COVID-19 Disaster Payment differs from JobKeeper in that those eligible will receive the money directly from the Federal Government.
In addition, individuals who currently receive an income support payment (like JobSeeker or Youth Allowance) will receive an additional $200 on top of their existing payment if they can demonstrate they have lost more than eight hours of work and meet the other eligibility requirements for the Disaster Payment.
The upgrade to the Disaster Payment comes as the New South Wales state government announced further business support measures in light of the month-long extension of its COVID-19 lockdown.
"This new level of payment recognises the significant impact that the new COVID-19 Delta strain is having on communities, businesses and workers," the Federal Government said.
"The Commonwealth Government will provide financial support to those in a declared Commonwealth Hotspot. The provision of financial support outside of these areas will be provided where requested at the cost of state or territory governments."
The new rate will commence for payments processed in the week commencing 2 August and will be automatically updated for those already in the Services Australia system.
It will be available from day one of any potential lockdown in the future, with claims made from day eight in arrears for the previous seven days. A weekly payment will then be made for the duration of the hotspot declaration.
There will be no liquid assets test applied to eligibility for these payments and an individual does not need to use up their personal annual leave before making the claim.
"Our Government will continue to support Australians facing the economic consequences of extended lockdowns," the Federal Government said.
"The Commonwealth Government, through Services Australia, has processed more than 955,000 COVID Disaster Payment claims, paying out more than $490 million to workers in New South Wales and Victoria."
Updated at 3.13pm AEST on 28 July 2021.
With New South Wales today recording 177 new cases of community transmission, the state's Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was "fairly obvious" residents would not be leaving lockdown this week and has extended the settings for another month until 28 August.
From midnight tonight residents will be restricted in where they can shop, testing requirements will be extended to more workers, new rules will apply for the construction industry, a 'singles bubble' will be introduced, and further financial assistance will be extended to more people and businesses.
Given low vaccination rates, the current stay-at-home orders will remain in place for four more weeks across Greater Sydney including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour.
"Whilst we're looking closely at those areas outside the Sydney metropolitan area, based on health advice it's too risky at this state to release any of them," Berejiklian said.
"So therefore, all those areas currently in lockdown will continue to be in lockdown for a further four weeks."
Premier Gladys Berejiklian emphasised higher vaccination rates and following the health orders were the only way to guarantee a further easing of restrictions.
"Though the Pfizer supply is insufficient there is plenty of AstraZeneca, and updated federal health advice recommends anyone aged 18 and over in Greater Sydney should access the jab," Berejiklian said.
"If you are unvaccinated, please organise a jab as soon as you possibly can, especially if you live in an LGA of concern."
The extension of lockdown settings comes as NSW recorded 177 new cases of community transmission today, 46 of whom were in the community while infectious.
Retail radius imposed
In addition to the lockdown extension, new rules will be put in place from midnight tonight which will see residents given more consistent rules around shopping for essential goods and services.
This means residents of the locked down areas must limit their shopping to within their local government area (LGA) or within 10km from home if the item is not available locally.
Singles bubble introduced
Those living alone can now nominate one designated family or friend to visit for companionship during this extended lockdown period.
This means if you have been living by yourself you are permitted to nominate one person who can visit you, but it has to be the same person every time they visit and they must be someone within your LGA.
"It has to be the same person, it can't be a different person every day," Berejiklian said.
"You have to nominate the one person that is your buddy or part of your singles bubble for the next four weeks to make sure that we don't spread the virus.
"Apart from workplaces where critical work has to occur households remain the biggest problem in New South Wales."
Financial assistance extended
Businesses in NSW will benefit from the extension of the 'JobSaver' scheme, giving greater support to businesses and individuals impacted by the extended lockdown.
JobSaver payments will now be available to businesses with an annual turnover of between $75,000 and $250 million, up from $50 million, which have experienced a revenue decline of 30 per cent or more.
The maximum weekly payment has also been substantially increased, with employing businesses that maintain their employee headcount now able receive between $1,500 and $100,000 per week, up from $10,000, with payments based on 40 per cent of their weekly NSW payroll.
Berejiklian said the additional support would help deliver businesses and individuals the financial assistance needed during the extension of the lockdown.
"We know these restrictions are tough but necessary to get the current situation under control and that is why we are coming to the table to help businesses and individuals with more financial support," Berejiklian said.
"We don't want people to have to worry about how they are going to keep the lights on or reopen their businesses when restrictions ease, which is why we are investing billions to give people that peace of mind."
New rules for the construction sector
Construction will remain banned during the lockdown for eight LGAs that have been designated as areas of concern (Fairfield, Canterbury Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland, Blacktown, Parramatta, Georges River and Campbelltown), however outside of those areas construction can recommence in non-occupied dwellings.
In addition, outside of those eight LGAs tradies are permitted to visit a home so long as they won't have contact with anyone while they are working.
"Construction will resume on Saturday 31 July, with safety measures such as controls on movements between sites, reduced contact between workers within sites, improved tracing capability and a focus on encouraging workers to get vaccinated," NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said.
"Works in occupied premises including residential homes can also resume from this Saturday where there is zero contact between workers and residents. There will be a limit of up to two workers for indoor services and five workers for outdoor services, and works will only be possible where it is feasible for residents to vacate the area. If contactless arrangements are not possible, work cannot go ahead.
"Unfortunately, construction will not resume in the eight LGAs of concern - Fairfield, Blacktown, Cumberland, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool, Parramatta and Georges River Local Government Areas."
Year 12s to get vaccinated ahead of a return to school
The NSW Government will roll out the Pfizer vaccine to some Year 12s who are to return to face-to-face schooling in two weeks' time on Monday 16 August.
"I want to be clear that this is based on the fact that within those eight LGAs of concern the New South Wales Government will be vaccinating students 16 to 18 years of age who are in Year 12," Berejiklian said.
"So year 12s, because the Pfizer vaccine is allowed in young adults or young children or adolescents, the New South Wales Government will start a vaccination program.
"I want to stress we haven't been given extra doses of the vaccine from any other government or the states or the Federal Government."
Every other student in the state will continue home schooling until the extended lockdown period finishes.
Tougher restrictions for LGAs of concern
Residents living in LGAs of concern to NSW Health will not be permitted to work outside of the areas they live in because of high rates of case numbers being recorded in those specific areas.
As such, residents living in the LGAs of Fairfield, Canterbury Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland, Blacktown, Parramatta, Georges River and Campbelltown must not work outside of their area unless they're a healthcare worker or an aged care worker.
"We don't want anyone leaving the house in those areas unless they absolutely have to," Berejiklian said.
"The virus is now circulating in their community at a rate that we think is too dangerous to allow them to go out for work unless it's in those critical industries that we've identified."
The state government has also expanded its three-day testing regime to include every single worker that lives in the Canterbury Bankstown LGA.
"Canterbury Bankstown has now become the central spot where most cases are being generated," Berejiklian said.
Workers from the Fairfield LGA will no longer have to present for a COVID-19 test every three days, except for those working in the aged care or healthcare industries.
Updated at 12.01pm AEST on 28 July 2021.
The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments will jointly fund a new $400 million round of support packages to help Victoria's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) recover from the recent lockdown, including assistance for commercial property renters and landlords.
The news comes as the state emerges from its fifth COVID-19 lockdown with daily community case numbers back in the single digits with eight reported overnight, and comes hot on the heels of a $283 million stimulus announced a week ago.
The latest scheme, funded 50-50 and to be administered by the Victorian Government, includes a new $85 million Small Business COVID Hardship Fund and a $156 million Business Continuity Fund, as well as boosts for existing hospitality and alpine business support mechanisms.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Victorian businesses have borne the brunt of the heavy cost of lockdowns that kept the state and Australia safe.
"Together we can and we will recover from this," the Prime Minister says.
"Last year, Victoria and our nation faced heavy blows from COVID, but with the right supports in place our economy and businesses came back strongly and a million people returned to work.
"We will continue to do what is necessary to support Victorian businesses as we face the evolving challenges of COVID-19."
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says the package is all about protecting and growing jobs to support the state's economic recovery.
"With this funding we'll continue driving jobs and economic recovery here in Victoria, and for the nation," the Premier says.
The treasurers of both governments have also stressed the importance of these new measures to help Victorians on the pathway out of lockdown.
"No amount of support can make up for what business owners have experienced over the last year and half, but this latest package will support them as they reopen after this latest lockdown," Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, a Victorian himself, says.
"We're supporting Victorian businesses each step of the way as we continue to fight this pandemic," adds Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas.
"We know small businesses have been doing it tough and this new fund will give them the support they need to recover," Pallas says.
Further details on the new supports are as follows:
Business Continuity Fund
A $156 million Business Continuity Fund will be established to deliver $5,000 grants to up to around 30,000 businesses that remain impacted by capacity limits placed on businesses by necessary public health restrictions.
Twenty-four eligible sectors are covered by the fund including gyms, cafes, restaurants, catering services and hairdressers.
Recognising businesses located in the CBD will continue to be impacted due to restrictions on the number of staff allowed in office buildings, they will be eligible to receive an additional $2,000 recognising reduced foot traffic due to office density limits.
Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021
The Licenced Hospitality Venue Fund will receive a $70 million boost, with grants of up to $20,000 to be made available to support licensed venues as their operations continue to be impacted by current restrictions.
These grants recognise that larger venues depend more on dine-in and have higher operating costs, so need more support than smaller operations.
Again an additional $2,000 will also be made available to the business if it is located within the CBD.
To receive this funding, venues will need to have received or been eligible for the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021.
Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme and Landlord Hardship Fund
The package, to be fully funded by the Victorian Government, will deliver $80 million to provide support to landlords that provide rent relief to their tenants.
The Commercial Tenancies Relief Scheme will be reinstated to provide much needed rent relief to small to medium commercial tenants and their landlords with more details on the roll out to be provided by the Victorian Government soon.
A mediation service for tenants and landlords will further support fair tenancy negotiations.
Tenants and landlords will be encouraged to enter negotiations directly, with the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) available to provide mediation if parties cannot reach satisfactory agreement. Landlords will not be able to lock out or evict tenants without a determination from the VSBC.
Legislation will shortly be introduced to enact the Scheme, which will be applied from today to ensure rent relief can start immediately.
"As we emerge from lockdown, this is exactly the right time to provide relief for those businesses that need extra assistance to get back on their feet," says Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford.
"We're calling for good-faith negotiations between tenants and landlords, and the hardship fund will mean landlords who find reasonable common ground will be supported."
Small Business COVID Hardship Fund
A new $85 million fund will be established to support small businesses who have not been eligible under existing business support funds.
Small businesses with a payroll of up to $10 million who have experienced a 70 per cent or greater reduction in revenue will be eligible for grants of up to $5,000.
Alpine Business Support Program
Alpine Business Support will receive a further $9.8 million to deliver grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 to 430 Alpine based businesses in recognition of restricted inter and intra-state travel during the peak winter season.
The funding also includes an additional $5 million support to alpine resort operators and management boards.
The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments continue to work together to support Victorians through this challenging time.
Updated at 11:54am AEST on 28 July 2021.
People who have visited the City Backpackers, Roma Street in Brisbane at any time since 22 July will be called upon for testing after a returned traveller who stayed there tested positive to COVID-19.
Queensland Health Minister Yvtte D'Ath and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young told a press conference this morning the man is a Perth resident who had returned from the Philippines, and completed quarantine at a Quest hotel after three negative tests for the virus.
A Quest spokesperson has confirmed he was in quarantine at Quest Chermside in Brisbane's north.
The man left hotel quarantine on 17 July, but on 26 July he felt unwell and got tested at the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital (RBWH) that night.
"It is deemed that he has been infectious in the community since the 22nd of July," D'Ath said.
"This individual has been residing at the Roma Street City Backpackers during this period."
Dr Jeannette Young noted contact tracing was underway for anyone who stayed at the hostel, and emphasised anyone who was in contact with him could have visited "anywhere in the state".
The case is one of 20 new reported COVID-19 cases in Queensland today, the other 19 relating to crew members from the bulk carrier vessel MV Sanyu which arrived in Torres Strait waters on Monday.
It was disclosed to authorities that many ship workers were sick, so health authorities boarded the vessel to test them for COVID-19.
"That ship will steam around to Weipa...if it hasn't arrived already this morning it should be arriving fairly soon. Then we will organise to take those sick crew off that ship, maintaining enough crew on that ship to keep that ship safe," Dr Young said.
"Then we'll bring those sick crew down to Brisbane to be managed in one of our quarantine facilities in Brisbane. All of that is happening as we speak."
Despite the lifting of lockdowns in South Australia and Victoria, Queensland is maintaining its hotspot designations for the two states but will be allowing some arrivals from both provided they are either Queensland residents or have been granted exemptions, and have suitable accommodation to complete home quarantine.
At the time of writing Queensland Health has not yet updated its exposure sites list to include the hostel, but residents of the state are encouraged to check the list on a daily basis.
Updated at 9:56am AEST on 28 July.
With no clear end in sight to Sydney's lockdown, the City Council plans to dish out grants, masks and food in a bid to help struggling residents.
The rescue package will set Sydney council back $5 million in grants and donations, plus an additional $7.8 million in estimated revenue foregone each month.
"The pandemic has had a severe impact on our community and economy. We are providing support through the crisis and ensuring we're ready to help breathe life back into the city when lockdowns are lifted," Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.
"Funding the provision of food and masks and offering rapid response grants to community organisations and initiatives will help us support our most vulnerable."
Though the news comes just one week after the announcement of the multi-billion dollar 2021 COVID-19 Support Package, released jointly by the NSW and federal governments, Moore gave short shrift to Canberra in today's announcement.
"The need for such drastic action highlights just how serious the situation is. It also highlights just how seriously we have been let down by the Federal Government," she said.
"We need an urgent rollout of vaccines, greater health and safety in quarantine for incoming travellers and more support for businesses and people including the urgent reinstatement of JobKeeper.
"It is the federal government's role to look after people. It is the State government's role to look after businesses. It is the City's role to reinvigorate the CBD and attract workers, visitors and tourists back to support our businesses when the time comes but we must survive before we can look to recovery."
The package covers:
- $4 million in grants for businesses and creatives to work on initiatives to support reactivation post-lockdown.
- $8.9 million cash and value-in-kind through existing City grant programs.
- Donations of $300,000 each for OzHarvest and Foodbank and $100,000 for SecondBite, in order to help vulnerable communities access food.
- An additional $250,000 in new Covid-19 community emergency quick response grants.
- $50,000 for masks for vulnerable communities and connecting people with mental health services.
- Extension of the outdoor dining program and waiving of associated fees through to 30 June 2022.
- Continuing existing fee waivers for footway dining, venue hire, banners, parking services, childcare and health and compliance activities, as well as offering rent rebates on certain City-owned properties for the lockdown period, estimated to cost $7.8 million per month.
The lockdown recovery package adds to the $20 million CBD revitalisation fund established by the City and NSW government in October 2020, aimed at boosting the city centre economy and supporting businesses over the summer months.
The Lord Mayor also said that, moving beyond the current crisis, the Council would continue to zero in on stimulating the local economy.
"As restrictions ease, we will once again need to revitalise our city and attract workers and visitors back safely. We are opening an exciting new grants program that will encourage neighbouring businesses and creatives to collaborate on events and activations that will enliven whole city precincts," she said.
"We will continue to work closely with the NSW Government to help businesses reopen, attract patrons and operate in a Covid-safe way when the lockdown lifts."
Affected businesses will be able to seek information on how to access these grants through a concierge service operated by the City, which has provided one-on-one advice since the outset of the pandemic.
South Australia has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 today, prompting the state to proceed with the planned lifting of lockdown settings at midnight tonight.
However, strict restrictions will remain including seated consumption of food and beverages, and mandatory mask wearing in certain settings.
"Thank you very much to all of those people who helped us get to this situation," says South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.
"I will particularly like to thank those people who had to go into a directed quarantine situation either at home or in the medi-hotel."
The shift will still see strong measures put into place to reduce any risks of further community transmission.
"I think we're going to be getting used to seeing far more masks around South Australia," the Premier said.
"We know the situation in New South Wales at the moment, so we do need to be at a higher level of readiness."
Masks will be necessary in care facilities, personal care services such as hairdressers (for the worker and the client), and indoor public places like supermarkets.
Students and staff in education will also receive support, with twelve trucks delivering facemasks for secondary schools. Masks are also being highly recommended within other workplaces.
The $100 million business support package has already been delivered to 2,500 businesses across the state, giving them access to the $3,000 emergency grant.
Training for sport has been deemed acceptable, however matches will not be allowed for the following week. Chruch services will also be allowed to resume with one person per 4sqm. Singing in a choir will be banned, with only one performer allowed at a time.
The current outbreak in NSW is still causing concern for authorities in SA.
"Our thoughts are with the people in New South Wales," Marshall said.
"We have a huge number of applications for people to return to South Australia.
"We are trying to get through those in a priortised way but the risk of people coming in from New South Wales is actually higher than people coming from overseas."
There are a total of 25 active cases in South Australia, and two people are in hospital.
Updated at 12:00pm AEST on 27 July 2021.
With all of Victoria's 10 new cases of community transmission in isolation for their entire infectious period, the state will move to leave lockdown from 11.59pm tonight but many restrictions will remain in place.
Notably, Victorians will not be allowed to welcome visitors to their homes, while crowds will remain banned at AFL matches and theatres. But after living through the state's fifth lockdown, residents are sure to welcome the raft of changes announced today.
The new post-lockdown settings will be in place for two weeks, and will see the five reasons to leave the home, the 5km travel limit and the two hour exercise restrictions ditched.
Instead, more relaxed restrictions will come into effect including:
- Schools will reopen for all year levels
- Bars, restaurants, live music venues and pubs will reopen with the 4sqm rule in place
- Gyms can reopen with the 4sqm rule in place
- Community sport can resume
- Public gatherings will be limited to 10 people
- Funerals and weddings can go ahead with 50 people in attendance (excluding people who are intrinsic to the event going ahead)
- Masks must be worn in both indoor and outdoor settings
- Crowds will remain banned at AFL matches, the theatre, etc.
- Gatherings in the home are still not permitted. People will only be able to book accommodation with their household, intimate partner or single bubble person.
Victoria will return to the rule that 'if you can work from home, you should work from home' but office workers will be able to return up to 25 per cent or up to 10 people - whichever is greater.
People will be free to visit ski fields again, but due to the higher risk in these settings entry to Victoria's alpine resorts will require a COVID test and receipt of a negative result within 72 hours prior to visiting. Children under 12 years of age are not required to be tested.
In addition, new border control measures will come into play from 11.59pm today and will see the state's strict "Extreme Risk Zone" permit approach currently applied to most of New South Wales extended to the local government areas of Wagga Wagga, Hay, Lockhart and Murrumbidgee.
This means travellers from those areas will be banned from entering Victoria unless they receive an essential traveller permit.
"There's a refusal to lock people in Sydney into Sydney, so therefore I have no choice but to make these changes," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
"We have seen off two Delta outbreaks - I don't think there's a jurisdiction in the world that has been able to achieve that.
"But at the same time we have to remain vigilant."
With regard to the continued mandate that masks be worn in all settings outside the home, Andrews pointed to a recent report from the Burnet Institute which found mask wearing was the single-most important control measure and "turned the epidemic around" in Melbourne last year.
Co-lead author Dr Nick Scott said the introduction of mandatory mask use by the Victorian Government on 22 July 2020 while Stage 3 restrictions were in place, turned an exponential increase in community transmission into an exponential decrease, almost overnight.
"We had a unique situation in Melbourne where masks were made mandatory as a single policy change, and compliance went from low use to a very high use of masks in the community very rapidly," Burnet Institute head of modelling and biostatistics Dr Scott said.
"What we saw was a significant 20-30 per cent reduction in the effective reproduction rate that correlated with that policy, so it turned the epidemic around from case numbers that were increasing every day to a situation where we could see the numbers were getting back under control."
In response to the news, Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra welcomed the end of severe restrictions in Victoria which would have cost around $2 billion in retail trade.
However, Zahra has called on the Federal Government to urgently reinstate business support measures to offset mounting losses of continued Delta outbreaks.
"This has been an unprecedented time with lockdowns occurring across multiple states without an adequate business safety net, leaving many businesses and their employees with mounting debts and costs while having their income cut off," Zahra said.
"With Delta we are potentially facing another economic cliff. Small businesses around the country face continued hurdles as the Delta variant threatens commercial operations particularly in NSW, which is our economic capital.
"We have called on the Prime Minister to restore a number of targeted business support measures until vaccination rates improve considerably."
Updated at 11.43am AEST on 27 July 2021.
COVID-19 case numbers remain high in locked-down Greater Sydney and the surrounding regions, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian flags a possible announcement tomorrow about what life will look like beyond 31 July.
There were 172 cases of community transmission recorded in NSW during the 24 hours to 8pm last night, of which only 61 are known to have been in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period.
The Premier also noted there were two deaths from the virus yesterday.
There are now 171 patients in hospital with COVID-19, of whom 46 are in intensive care with 19 on ventilation.
"Time and time again cases are popping up in workplaces, amongst workers in those critical places of employment, but also in households," the Premier said.
"Tragically, I want to extend my condolences to the families and loved ones of the two older women who succumbed to the disease yesterday."
In terms of key areas of concern, Berejiklian noted the virus was becoming "more prominent" in Western Sydney than Southwestern Sydney.
"Of course we want to ask the Southwestern community to stay vigilant. In particular I want to call out and thank the Fairfield local government area who have shown a positive result in declining number of cases, but now we've seen adjoining councils in Western Sydney increase the number of cases we have," she said.
"We ask for populations in the Canterbury Bankstown area, in the Liverpool area, in the Cumberland community in particular and also the Parramatta council area to make sure that they're vigilant, they're coming forward to get tested, and you're not leaving the house unless you absolutely have to."
The Premier continued the call-out to NSW residents to get vaccinated as part of the state's "recipe for freedom", reinforcing the message that the vaccine helps protect against serious illness and reduces how infectious you are.
"Pleasingly, from tomorrow we have increased our presence of pharmacists in Southwestern and Western Sydney providing vaccinations," she said.
"From tomorrow, over-18s will be able to access the vaccining pharmacists, and from Friday our NSW Health Hubs will be able to take bookings for people over 18 years of age for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"This is positive news in line with the health advice, so I'm asking everybody to come forward and get the vaccine."
Click here for an updated list of NSW exposure sites.
Updated at 11:33am AEST on 27 July 2021.
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