Coronavirus cases in NSW without a clear source of transmission are on the rise, nudging the state closer to a lockdown scenario.
The state branch of the Australian Medical Association, meanwhile, has called for an immediate lockdown amid “highly unusual times” and wants an assurance that healthcare workers can access protective gear.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday in NSW rose by 186 to 1405. Of those total cases, the source of infection for 145 people is unknown, prompting concern among health authorities.
This number is the primary criterion by which NSW authorities are gauging the success of shutdown measures in halting the virus’ spread.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged people to be vigilant and sensible, adding no one should leave their homes unless they have to.
But if COVID-19 cases from community-to-community transmission continue to rise, a more comprehensive lockdown would be needed.
“That tells us we are starting to see the increasing spread from unknown sources,” Ms Berejiklian said on Friday.
“There’s a number of (lockdown) trigger points – you look at the proportion of community-to-community transfer, the capacity of our hospital system, how many people are presenting to hospital with the disease.
“You also look to see how much community activity has been reduced.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison cautioned against using the term “lockdown”.
“I think it does create unnecessary anxiety because that is not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest,” Mr Morrison said in Canberra after a meeting of the national cabinet, which includes Ms Berejiklian.
Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said community transmission was the “single most important concern for the health experts”.
“There is small amounts of community transmission in some pockets in Sydney, which is probably the most significant in the country,” Professor Murphy said in Canberra.
Ms Berejiklian said it would be important for residents to have time to absorb government decisions, and reiterated that at least seven days were required to determine the success of current restrictions.
Nevertheless, she was willing to move ahead of NSW Health advice, an action demanded on Friday by AMA NSW.
President Dr Kean-Seng Lim said stronger physical distancing measures were required immediately and called for a central point of command within the health system, rather than local health district management.
He also demanded assurances doctors and nurses were protected from infection through the access of equipment such as masks and gloves.
“We don’t want to see any deaths of healthcare workers in NSW and the community needs to do everything possible to support that goal. These are highly unusual times,” Dr Lim said in a statement.
“We are calling on every person in NSW to play their part and stay home.”
NSW Health on Friday said 162 passengers of the Ruby Princess cruise ship permitted to disembark last week in Sydney have now been confirmed to have COVID-19, up from 121.
Other confirmed cases include a Bathurst Base Hospital doctor and two Chilean sailors who have been in NSW since March 1.
Almost 20 coronavirus patients in NSW are in intensive care.
A one-year-old girl confirmed on Thursday to have COVID-19 was also found to have visited a childcare centre one day before her onset of symptoms. NSW Health will contact the parents of children at the centre.
It comes as the NSW government announces a second round of economic stimulus measures including an additional $750 million to sustain businesses and retrain retrenched employees.
Police have the power to hand out fines of $1000 to individuals and $5000 to businesses that breach public health orders or ministerial directions.