NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says vaccination is key to controlling COVID-19 Delta strain as cases skyrocket

New South Wales has recorded its highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases since the outbreak began in mid-June and Premier Gladys Berejiklian warns the worst is yet to come.

“There’s no doubt, again, that we anticipate case numbers will continue to go up before they start coming down and we need to brace ourselves for that,” she told reporters on Thursday, after the state recorded 124 new cases.

It’s grim news for millions of residents across Greater Sydney and surrounding regions who will have to wait until at least the weekend to see what impact harsher lockdown rules have had and to see if the lockdown will end on July 30, as planned.

The premier has previously stated the virus must be quashed before restrictions, now in a fourth week, can be lifted.

With cases rising, and the end of lockdown out of sight, the premier was asked – have our contact tracers lost control?

The Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney after stay-at-home orders in Greater Sydney and surrounds were tightened. Credit: JOEL CARRETT/AAPIMAGE

Berejiklian was clear: “That’s not the case”.

“Please know that our contact tracers are well resourced. They are doing an unbelievable job … but please know that the health experts do rely on people giving us as much information as they remember.”

“So the challenge for us is really working with communities, working with people who, under very stressful circumstances, are trying to remember every single thing they did for the last 14 days.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Berejiklian also rejected the suggestion that rising numbers indicated the health advice that had guided restrictions was insufficient.

“You just look at any other country on the planet … we have countries with smaller populations than ours having thousands and thousands of cases every single day,” she said.

“I don’t like (the case numbers) but the fact that it’s not thousands should give us a degree of comfort.

“Had we not put in those extra restrictions … that would have been a situation which would have seen us get out of control.”

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‘It is spreading like we’ve never seen before.’

The premier did, however, admit the more infectious Delta variant had posed a new challenge for health authorities.

“It’s cruel how contagious this virus is,” the premier added, “any human contact means you can pick up or spread the virus”.

“It is spreading like we’ve never seen before.”

She again urged residents to stay at home, and not to “go about your business as we may have done in other outbreaks”.

“This is a very different strain, very different set of circumstances and that’s why we need to respond to it differently.”

‘Healthy position’

The premier said she hoped NSW would eventually get to a “healthy position” where authorities can manage infections, and “have our population live as safely and freely as possible” – but only if vaccination levels are higher.

“That is the reality that the whole world is facing,” she said.

”Until we have enough of our population fully vaccinated, we will be living with some level of restrictions and that will depend on how quickly we can overcome the severity of the current outbreak.

Members of the public wait for a vaccine at a mass COVID-19 vaccination hub in Sydney. File image.
Members of the public wait for a vaccine at a mass COVID-19 vaccination hub in Sydney. File image. Credit: AAP

“I’m looking forward to the day that I can, with confidence, tell you we’re on the decline but we’re not there yet.

“In fact, I suspect (the numbers) will get worse before they get better.”

Since the outbreak began on June 16, there have been 1648 cases and five people have died.

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