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The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has hinted at a prolonged lockdown in greater Sydney well into September as case numbers reached 172, the highest number of this outbreak.
At least 60 cases were in the community during their infectious period and 19 were only partially isolating, while 32 are still under review.
The premier is expected to announce a roadmap for the next few weeks as early as Wednesday as the state continues to battle escalating numbers and a shift of the cases and exposure sites to western Sydney as well as south-west Sydney.
An apartment block in Blacktown with 50 apartments is now locked down and being guarded by NSW police after six cases across several households were identified.
Officials said these cases had been linked to a funeral gathering in Pendle Hill a week ago, which was attended by about 50 people. It has led to at least 28 infections. One of the deaths recorded on Monday – a woman in her 80s at home at Pendle Hill – is also linked to the event.
There are also concerns about infections at Liverpool hospital and Fairfield hospital. Two nurses and a student nurse have been diagnosed with Covid-19. The nurses had worked in a geriatric and vascular ward. Eight patients have now been diagnosed with the illness and one patient who was transferred to Fairfield hospital has also tested positive.
The nursing staff were partially vaccinated.
“I understand that they had all received at least one dose and one had received two doses. But the doses were quite soon before the illness,” deputy chief health officer Jeremy McAnulty said.
There are also concerns about Campsie shopping mall, which has now been listed as an exposure site for 11 days between 14 to 24 July. All people who attended the busy shopping centre must isolate for 14 days regardless of a negative test result.
Officials said family members of infected people had continued to visit the mall despite close relatives testing positive and this explained the long exposure period that has now been notified.
There is no evidence yet of any spread due to the demonstration in Sydney CBD on Saturday.
Berejiklian appeared to be setting the scene for a prolonged lockdown when she announces what will happen after 31 July.
“Obviously the number of people infectious in the community is nowhere we needed to be and what the New South Wales government is now considering based on the health advice is what the best settings are for us moving forward, given we know where the disease in particular is transmitting in terms of locations, geography and other related matters,” she said.
“Vaccination is the key to our freedom. Getting jabs in arms is a key part of our strategy.
“I want August to be the month where everyone comes forward to get the jab.
“That is key to us being able to see what September looks like. I don’t think anyone can deny that the vaccination rate is absolutely key to how we live life in NSW.”
Both Berejiklian and the health minister, Brad Hazzard, described the supplies of Pfizer available to NSW as “challenging” but denied the state would run out.
“We have a challenging six weeks before we get that vaccine,” Berejiklian said.
Hazzard said: “We need more Pfizer. Right now.
“The state government has set up mass vaccination hubs that would never have been envisaged previously … and we had to do that not knowing, not being guaranteed that we would get vaccine to actually use those facilities to their maximum capacity.
“The alternative would have been to have no facilities when the vaccines come so we made a decision in our government that we would take the extra step, the precautionary step, to have the facilities set up and we have done it.
“Now we are dependant on the federal government supplies of the Pfizer vaccine and, at the moment, we know for a fact we will not have enough Pfizer in the next few weeks to be able to do what we really could do in those hubs.”
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Instead the NSW government is encouraging younger people, particularly in hotspots, to take the AstraZeneca vaccine now and is opening walk-in clinics in the hotspots of south-west and western Sydney by Friday.
The premier also appeared to walk back her earlier commitment to open up the construction sector by 31 July, saying the decision “will be based on the health advice, based on safe practice and based on very stringent Covid safety plans”.
“There are still categories of workers who have to undertake what they are doing and, if that can be managed in a safer way, then obviously the NSW government will look at that,” she said.
“We are not about taking decisions and then having setbacks. We also need to ensure that the settings we have in place a reasonable and based on health advice, but we keep things going a much as we can, where and when it’s safe to do so.”
However, the lockdown over the central west of the state looks likely to be lifted after there were no more reported cases of transmission over the last week.