The NSW state government has announced further testing requirements for essential workers moving about areas of concern in Greater Sydney, as one man in his 70s with COVID-19 has died in hospital overnight.
From midnight Tuesday, periodic surveillance testing will apply to workers, even those who have no symptoms of COVID-19, moving in and out of the Fairfield local area every three days.
Essential workers travelling from Greater Sydney to the state’s regions will also be subject to testing for COVID-19 every seven days.
Workers who undergo the periodic testing will not need to self-isolate as part of the process.
On Tuesday, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian fronted for her daily COVID-19 update press conference to explain the new testing measures. She also foreshadowed that she would share what the next stage of the NSW lockdown would look like in the coming days.
“This Delta variant of the virus has a life of its own. In the Australian context we’re learning a lot about what it does,” Berejiklian said
“Because this is so transmissible, the risk is so much greater, and that’s why we’re treating this lockdown [and] this virus differently,” she said.
According to NSW Health, the surveillance testing measures (similar to what NSW quarantine workers who undergo daily salivary testing for COVID-19) are being implemented out of concern about people in the community who are non-symptomatic but spreading the COVID-19 virus.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said it was important to understand this applied to non-symptomatic workers. She urged any person who was experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms to get tested and self-isolate until receiving a negative test result.
“If at all possible, defer going to any workplaces, even if it’s essential, if it’s not going to impact on those critical services and wait for your negative test,” Chant said.
“This is about balancing competing risks and benefits.”
NSW recorded 89 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday. A total of 14 of those positive cases are still under investigation as the source of their infection remains unknown.
An Eastern Suburbs man in his 70s who was a positive COVID-19 case is also reported to have died overnight.
NSW recorded 89 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night. pic.twitter.com/GMaUFsS56b
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 13, 2021
Dr Chant also urged residents of the Fairfield local government area, as well as Roselands, Rosebery, Canterbury, Belmore, Sutherland Shire, the St George area, West Hoxton, Glenfield and Green Valley to get tested.
“What we need to do is see behaviour change across our population and work together to support our response to COVID,” Chant said.
“Assume every time you’re going out of the house [that] you could be coming in contact with someone who is infectious.”
“Ensure you are wearing your mask, shop purposefully, minimise your time, put your mask on before you go into the premises, ensure you keep your distance and do not interact with others socially in any shopping centres that you’re going through,” she said.
How I spent my Sunday. Lining up with 7000 good citizens to get shot 1 of vaccine.
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) July 12, 2021
Citizens essentially left to use ‘common sense’
Answers to questions about what the government’s official definition of ‘essential work’ is remains opaque, with health minister Brad Hazzard thwarting the suggestion it was not good enough that citizens did not understand who was allowed to be moving about for work reasons during this lockdown.
Dr Chant suggested that healthcare workers such as nurses and aged carers were obvious examples of people who fell into the ‘essential worker’ category.
But the health minister refused to address whether an example of a painter from Greater Sydney who was infectious with COVID-19 while working on a hospital redevelopment project in Goulburn posed an unnecessary risk of spreading the virus because of a lack of government clarity about what was ‘essential’.
Hazzard said employers and employees should know whether their work was essential or otherwise. For the government to define what was essential work was ‘practically very challenging’, he added.
“You can spend your lives looking for loopholes in these things and look for reasons to duck and weave.
“But the answer is use your common sense, work with the public health officials to try and achieve what we need to achieve,” Hazzard said.
Responding to calls for a clearer definition of ‘essential work’, the premier said that given that it was so difficult to have a ‘precise rule for every single thing’ the government was relying on people to ‘respect the intent and letter’ of the health orders.
“We’ve seen that when you try and get so technical, there are always going to be exceptions. People will always think they can cut corners and that’s what we’re asking people not to do,” Berejiklian said.
“Rather than looking for loopholes, we say to everybody stay at home unless you absolutely have to leave for work or essential shopping.”
“Exercise good common sense, exercise good judgement, exercise extra caution, and be kind and thoughtful to your fellow citizens,” she said.
Police issued a total of 121 infringement notices in the last day and 34 of those were issued to people in one of the areas of greatest concern in South West Sydney.