NSW residents have been told to "brace" for more COVID cases as the state recorded its highest daily tally in the latest outbreak, with 124 new cases.
Of the new locally-acquired cases recorded to 8pm on Wednesday, at least 70 were active in the community for all or part of their infectious period.
That's the number that worries Premier Gladys Berejiklian the most as those with COVID circulate in the community unwittingly infecting others.
"We anticipate case numbers will continue to go up before they start coming down and we need to brace ourselves for that," she said on Thursday.
However, Ms Berejiklian denied contact tracers had lost control of the disease.
"It's not because our contact tracers don't necessarily get to them quickly. It's because people remember things subsequently or people may not have known they were infectious at a particular point in time," she said.
Of the 124 new cases, 94 are from south western and western Sydney, while 18 are from the Sydney Local Health District.
There were eight cases recorded in southeast Sydney, two in northern Sydney, and one case each in the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains.
Authorities are concerned about a 'spill over' of cases from the Fairfield Local government area into other areas.
Ms Berejiklian said the two main areas that people are getting and spreading the virus continued to be in workplaces and households. However, people are also contracting the virus while buying groceries and going to the pharmacist.
The premier said the highly-infectious Delta strain was a game changer in the pandemic and stressed again that people needed to stay home.
"It's cruel the way this virus is contagious .... it is spreading like we've never seen before."
Opposition Leader Chris Minns called for more resources for southwestern Sydney and for JobKeeper to be reinstated.
"It's crucial that JobKeeper come back, the future growth and health of the Australian economy depends on it," he said.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard stressed the virulent Delta strain was "a really serious issue for young people" and warned most infections were being diagnosed in people under 35.
"Now what we've got is effectively almost a new virus in the sense that I think the current numbers are showing almost 60 per cent are young people under the age of 35," he said.
"We have young people in intensive care."
NSW Health said there were 118 people in hospital with COVID, with 28 in intensive care and 14 ventilated.
Ms Berejiklian said the record 85,185 number of tests had resulted in higher case numbers.
NSW Health's Jeremy McAnulty said the new numbers included three workers in two Sydney aged care facilities, and five people in a group home at Parklea.
A worker at a southern Sydney aged care home, The Palms at Kirrawee, had tested positive.
"This person wasn't vaccinated and the residents and staff have been tested. Two staff members.. at an aged care facility in Belrose have tested positive," Dr McAnulty said.
More than five million people in Greater Sydney and surrounding regions will have to wait until at least the weekend to see what impact harsher lockdown rules have had and whether the lockdown will end on time on July 30.
Ms Berejiklian says the virus must be quashed before restrictions, now in a fourth week, can be lifted, but didn't want to "delve into the hypothetical".
"From July 31 we hope to be able to explain to the community what we can do in relation to adjusting those settings," she said.
Meanwhile, about 50,000 people in the central-western local government areas of Orange, Blayney and Cabonne remain in a week-long lockdown, after a COVID-19 positive delivery driver from Sydney infected a factory worker.
Since the outbreak began in June 16, 1648 people have contracted the virus.