'Greatest threat' as new NSW cases hit 44

·4-min read

NSW has endured its worst day of the current COVID-19 outbreak, prompting a further tightening of lockdown restrictions and a warning thousands could die if the virus runs rampant across the state.

The state recorded 44 new cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, 29 of which were active in the community for some or all of their infectious period.

Friday was originally slated to mark the end of a two-week lockdown for Greater Sydney and surrounds, but instead tough new restrictions kick in as the number of daily cases spiked to the highest point since the pandemic's first wave.

The number of close contacts isolating across NSW also doubled in 24 hours, from 7000 to 14,000.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned worse days are yet to come.

Lockdown, now due to end next Friday, will likely be extended again.

She said a premature reopening of Greater Sydney would quickly result in thousands of coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

"(This is) the greatest threat we have faced in NSW since the pandemic started ... (and) at the moment the numbers are not heading in the right direction," the premier told reporters on Friday.

"The rate of infection therefore is going up exponentially every day.

"Unless there's a dramatic turnaround in the numbers, I can't see how we'll be in a position to ease restrictions by next Friday."

Regulations were tightened for locked-down residents of Greater Sydney and its surrounds, with the premier urging communities to stop using exemptions as loopholes to leave the house.

"We're still getting questions ... about how many people you can have into your home. The answer is zero," Ms Berejiklian said.

"Do not go (out) to an indoor setting because you're bored and it's a rainy weekend. That is how the virus spreads.

"The message I'm delivering today is quite shocking for a lot of people but I need everybody to be shocked."

Since 5pm Friday, residents are banned from exercising more than 10km from their home, and only in groups of two people or with their immediate household.

Funerals in the affected areas will be capped at 10 people.

Browsing at shops is prohibited, and only one person per household may leave the home for shopping each day.

Meanwhile, the health department on Friday evening issued a list of 30 new exposure sites. The list includes Ikea in Tempe, where an infected worker potentially exposed hordes of customers over an 11-hour shift.

The new venues of concern also include two Bunnings stores in Randwick and Hoxton Park, and a row of six furniture stores in Campbelltown.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns backed the government's decision to tighten restrictions, but called for more financial support for those struggling due to the lockdown.

"So many workers and businesses have made massive sacrifices to protect our health and save people's lives," he said in a statement.

"The NSW government now must do more to help businesses and workers save their livelihoods."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said the restrictions were "tiring, exasperating and frustrating", but the step to tighten them further was "necessary", flagging the potential for more federal support.

"The Commonwealth government will continue to provide support necessary to give effect to those restrictions and to ensure that NSW economy and the people of Sydney in particular are supported through what is this very difficult time," he said.

Ten COVID-19 patients in NSW are in intensive care, with four ventilated - one person aged in their 20s.

Meanwhile, NSW Police on Friday stepped up patrols on the streets of southwest Sydney to ensure compliance with COVID-19 health orders, with senior cops insisting the measure is not about discrimination or racism.

Some 21 of Friday's reported cases were in southwest Sydney.

Democracy in Colour head Neha Madhok said the police response was "thinly veiled racism" and targeted people of colour and working-class communities.

Meanwhile a shop in Jindabyne has been ordered to close for a week and its owners charged for serial COVID safety breaches across repeat visits from police.

Staff were busted breaching mask wearing rules, and there was no check-in register of any kind, nor any signage relating to wearing face coverings or patron capacity.

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