Coles, Woolworths to be targeted as Covid cases surge

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Compliance checks will ramp up in NSW supermarkets over the weekend as daily Covid-19 cases surged to a record 466 on Saturday.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian implored people to get vaccinated to enable "freedom for all" as cases continue to grow exponentially. 

The premier said the government was exploring more freedoms for those who were vaccinated and where there were low case numbers in the coming months.

Stock images of Woolworths sign (left) and Coles shopping baskets (right). Source: AAP
Supermarkets and retailers will be targeted in weekend compliance checks across NSW. Source: AAP

"What we want to achieve in September and October is provide some opportunities for people to have an extra thing they can do which they currently can't do today," Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Friday.

But while strict public health orders remain in place, SafeWork NSW said inspectors would be targeting retailers and specifically supermarkets from Saturday.

"Any business found breaking the rules may be subjected to fines and could face a closure," Director of Compliance Dimitri Argeres said in a statement.

A person uses a smart phone to check-in with a QR code at a supermarket in Pitt Street mall, in Sydney, Saturday, July 17, 2021. Source: AAP
SafeWork NSW inspectors will be out in force this weekend, warning any business caught doing the wrong thing will face fines or closure. Source: AAP

Additional soldiers deployed in Covid-19 hotspots 

From Monday, the Australian Defence Force will send an additional 200 soldiers to NSW on top of 550 already assisting COVID-19 efforts.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said they would support contract tracing work, accompany police officers, and other compliance measures.

Meanwhile, media have reported the NSW crisis cabinet had on Friday afternoon agreed to a permit system for people wanting to leave the Greater Sydney area.

It comes after Sydneysiders spread the virus into the Hunter and northern rivers regions.

Australian Defence Force personnel and NSW police are seen at Fairfield in the south west suburb of Sydney, Monday, August 2, 2021. 300 ADF troops will reinforce the efforts of police, patrolling and door-knocking to ensure people are complying with coronavirus restrictions. Source: AAP
An extra 200 soldiers will be sent into NSW as the state grapples to contain the growing Covid-19 outbreak. Source: AAP

New restrictions and payments and virus spreads 

The crisis cabinet also backed Victorian-style support payments for those awaiting COVID-19 test results, to encourage them against working, and changes to the singles bubble arrangements in Greater Sydney's 12 local government areas of concern.

Health services in western Sydney face a "big challenge" as 25 new cases were recorded in local areas, with eight in Dubbo and two in Walgett.

A one-week lockdown began on Wednesday for Walgett, Dubbo, Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Gilgandra, Narromine and Warren.

Two schools in Dubbo, the Buninyong Public School and the Dubbo School of Distance Education, closed following COVID-19 cases while the NSW Department of Education said late on Friday that Oxley Park Public School in western Sydney's St Marys would shut after a member of the school community tested positive.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said an additional 8000 vaccines were being sent to Walgett, where about 80 per cent of the 6500 residents are Aboriginal.NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said an additional 8000 vaccines were being sent to Walgett, where about 80 per cent of the 6500 residents are Aboriginal.

Ms Berejiklian on Friday scolded people who are "knowingly" breaking the rules and using the health orders as an excuse, after two COVID-positive women, aged 20 and 21, were charged for travelling from Sydney to the Hunter.

"People are saying, 'Oh, I didn't know' ... Most of the time that is not true. Let's not pretend that people are doing the right thing," she said.

The 19-year-old son of Zoran Radovanovic, 52, has also been charged after the duo from Rose Bay in Sydney's east travelled to Byron Bay and sparked a lockdown in the NSW Northern Rivers.

The state also recorded another two deaths in an unvaccinated woman in her 40s who died at home in southwest Sydney and a vaccinated Hunter man in his 90s in palliative care.

The toll for the current outbreak in NSW is now at least 38.

There are currently 63 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, with 30 being ventilated.

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