Health authorities are pleading with New South Wales residents to stay at home as the battle to contain an outbreak of the virulent Delta strain continues.
The number of daily coronavirus cases reached a new high on Saturday with 163 infections – up from an earlier record of 136 cases on Friday.
At least 70 were active in the community for part or all of their infectious period.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the new cases were mainly in the southwest Sydney areas of Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Blacktown and Liverpool.
“We really need our community, particularly in southwestern and western Sydney, to stay at home, to hear the message and stay at home,” the health minister said.
“And don’t intermingle with family members from other households.
“It will continue to cause massive grief here in Sydney, particularly in western and southwestern Sydney, if family members mix with family members from other households.
“Just please, stop doing it. Stop.”
NSW Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Jeremy McAnulty said authorities were particularly “concerned” by one gathering at Pendle Hill, in Sydney’s west, following a family tragedy.
He said there were 18 cases linked to the event.
“Families coming together, even in tragic times can actually, when you are naturally grieving, can be a risk where COVID can easily take hold and spread among family members and then out to their households and further afield,” he said.
“We are working very closely with the community to try to make sure that all of those family members are tested and isolated.”
Dr McAnulty reiterated how “serious” the virus is, which was also reflected in the hospitalisation numbers.
There are currently 139 people in hospital with COVID, 37 of which are in intensive care, and 17 of whom require ventilation.
“55 of those people are aged under 55, so they are not all old people. In fact, 28 are under 35 years of age,” he added.
Police issued 246 penalty notices for breaches of lockdown rules in the last 24 hours.
Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are in lockdown until at least July 30 and three local government areas in regional NSW are under stay-at-home orders until at least July 28, as authorities battle to contain an outbreak of the Delta strain.