Greater Sydney lockdown to be extended by four weeks as Covid cases continue to rise

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<span>Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP</span>
Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Greater Sydney will remain locked down for a further four weeks after the NSW cabinet agreed to the plan at a crisis meeting to discuss the rising number of Delta cases within the state.

It is understood the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, will announce the extension on Wednesday morning after NSW reported a record 172 local cases of Covid on Tuesday. A third of the new cases were in the community while infectious.

Berejiklian will not be introducing curfews, however, because the government does not believe they would be effective in preventing the spread of the virus which is mainly occurring among households and via essential workers.

The Coalition government is exploring introducing rapid antigen testing for year 12 students to allow them to return to school ahead of their HSC exams, but other years are expected to remain at home for their schooling over the additional four-week period.

In the wake of several clusters caused by infectious staff at supermarkets, the government is considering whether rapid antigen testing could also be used at some essential workplaces, the Guardian understands.

Related: Covid tests being flown interstate for diagnosis as Sydney is swamped

As Berejiklian had previously indicated, construction will be permitted to resume from Saturday – the current lockdown was scheduled to end on Friday at 11.59pm – provided sites have approved Covid-safe plans.

These are likely to require that different teams of workers are separated on-site to avoid spread between groups of workers from different trades.

Tuesday’s 172 cases was the highest number of this outbreak. Earlier in the day, Berejiklian appeared to be setting the scene for a prolonged lockdown when she announces what would happen after 31 July.

“Obviously the number of people infectious in the community is nowhere we needed to be and what the New South Wales government is now considering based on the health advice is what the best settings are for us moving forward, given we know where the disease in particular is transmitting in terms of locations, geography and other related matters,” the premier told reporters on Tuesday.

“Vaccination is the key to our freedom. Getting jabs in arms is a key part of our strategy. I want August to be the month where everyone comes forward to get the jab.

“That is key to us being able to see what September looks like. I don’t think anyone can deny that the vaccination rate is absolutely key to how we live life in NSW.”

Both Berejiklian and the NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, described the supplies of Pfizer available to NSW as “challenging” but denied the state would run out.

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