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New South Wales records 262 Covid-19 cases and five deaths from virus

New South Wales has recorded its equal-most deadly day of the Covid-19 pandemic with five fatalities and now has been forced to widen lockdown measures to the Newcastle and Hunter region due to a local outbreak.

Five deaths recorded in a day equaled the number set on April 28 last year while locally-acquired case numbers recorded on Thursday rose to the highest-ever level of 262.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said four of the five NSW residents to die from the virus in the past 24 hours were not vaccinated. The fifth had received only one dose of the AstraZeneca jab back in May.

Three of those who died were in their 60s, while one was in their 70s and the other was in their 80s. The death toll from the city's latest outbreak of the highly-contagious Delta strain now stands at 21.

NSW Health said 45 of the newly-acquired cases were infectious in the community. 

Ms Berejiklian announced the Newcastle and Hunter region - more than 100km north of Sydney - would be put under a one-week lockdown from 5pm on Thursday after five school students tested positive.

The local government areas that will go into lockdown are Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton and Muswellbrook. 

Residents in those LGAs will face the same strict stay-at-home orders as five million residents across Greater Sydney, who are in lockdown until at least August 28. 

Health officials also issued a warning in Dubbo and Armidale in the state's north and central-west after fragments of the virus were found in sewage water, and urged locals to get tested.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the level of the virus in Armidale's sewage catchment had increased in recent days, indicating there were active cases in the area.

Dr Chant said the outbreak in the Hunter region was almost certainly linked to a party held at Blacksmiths Beach south of Newcastle last Friday night.

A pedestrian walks along Coogee Beach in Sydney's eastern suburbs on Thursday morning. Another five deaths from Covid-19 have been recorded in New South Wales overnight

The Newcastle and Hunter region - more than 100km north of Sydney - will enter a one-week lockdown from 5pm on Thursday. Covid-19 has also been discovered in sewage in the catchment serving Dubbo in the state's central west

HOW A BEACH PARTY COULD HAVE SPREAD DELTA INTO REGIONAL NSW

Health officials believe Covid-19 could have spread from Greater Sydney into the Hunter region through a party at Blacksmiths Beach south of Newcastle last Friday night.

Officials believe some of those at the get-together may have travelled there from the Harbour City despite Sydney being in a stay-at-home lockdown.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said some of the revellers had been honest about their movements with contact tracers after testing positive.

'It is in the best interests of everyone at this time for us to get to the bottom of it,' she said. 

'If they’ve made a wrong judgement they regret please tell us the truth because that will allow us to find out who was there and stop any chains of transmission.'

She said authorities believe some of those at the party may have travelled there from Greater Sydney despite the city's residents being banned from entering regional NSW for non-essential reasons. 

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said 'we believe there is linkages back to western Sydney'.

'If they’ve made a wrong judgement they regret please tell us the truth because that will allow us to find out who was there and stop any chains of transmission,' Dr Chant said.

While Sydney's lockdown had failed to prevent case numbers rising, the Premier said a sharp increase in vaccination rates - particularly among mobile workers from the afflicted southwest and western suburbs - would ultimately curb the outbreak.

'We know that too many authorised workers, people that are putting food on our table or taking care of our aged care facilities, are not vaccinated and that's a huge risk,' the Premier said.

'If we didn't let these workers work, we'd have no food supplies and no essential services. If we get those people who are mobile vaccinated, that will help us deal with the case numbers.'

She has set a target of administering six million Covid-19 vaccines across NSW by the end of August, which equals about half of the state's eligible population. 

'We will not get through this numbers until we see high rates of vaccination,' she said.

The premier also revealed New South Wales had secured another 180,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the federal government, meaning those doses which were taken away from regional areas to vaccinate 20,000 Year 12 students could now be restored.

'It means that in the week of 16 August, we can redirect doses we have taken from the regions for HSC students,' she said.

'It also means we can focus on those eight local government areas in Greater Sydney of concern in particular.' 

She rejected calls from the NSW Teachers Federation to delay the return of Year 12 students while Delta remained circulating in the community.

'I hope that all peak bodies appreciate, I don't think anybody in this state would disagree that our priority should be having Year 12 complete their HSC in as safe and as timely a way as possible,' Ms Berejiklian said. 

A state pandemic-record 262 cases of the virus have been found in New South Wales overnight as Sydney's Delta outbreak spread into regional NSW

The Premier said banning the unvaccinated from workplaces remained an option as a means to drive the uptake toward the 70 percent target. 

'We're definitely trying to consider options that are more positive, to say classes of employees can go back if they've had the vaccination,' the Premier said.

'We're considering those options. I don't want to rule anything or out.

'Please put pressure on your staff to get vaccinated, we need you to help us, even if they're not allowed to work now, because chances are we'll be allowed to have them back sooner once they've had their vaccination."

Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Thursday took aim at younger people who were holding off on getting vaccinated, saying 'there is no excuse' not to get the jab. 

'Seventy per cent of all cases are now under the age of 40, for heaven's sake, get real, come join us, go and get vaccinated where you can get it,' he said. 

'Stop being selfish, stop putting front-line healthcare at risk who are there to look after you when you get the virus - five people have lost their life.'

Overnight, it was revealed two of the students who tested positive in regional NSW attended Lake Munmorah Public School on the Central Coast.

Their older sibling also tested positive and goes to Morisset High School near Lake Macquarie. 

Eight of the nine cases recorded on the Central Coast are part of the same household.

Pictured: Morisset High School in Lake Macquarie on Thursday morning. A case at the school is one of five new infections found among students across regional NSW

There are also two positive cases at Maitland Christian School in the Hunter Valley, with parents and teachers being informed via email on Thursday morning.

All three schools were shut down for deep cleaning on Wednesday after the positive tests and hundreds of students and stuff sent into isolation. 

A Target employee working at Stockland Glendale shopping centre has also tested positive, with the building the latest high-risk exposure site. 

Lake Macquarie, the Hunter and the Central Coast have had next to no Covid cases but the Central Coast is in lockdown along with Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Illawarra.   

Pictured is a line for testing at Morriset High School in Morriset in the Lake Macquarie region of NSW on Thursday morning. The Lake Macquarie LGA is among eight government areas north of Sydney that will enter a week-long stay-at-home lockdown from 5pm on Thursday

Crowds enjoy their essential exercise on Thursday morning as Sydney endures its sixth week of a hard stay-at-home lockdown

A concerned parent of Lake Munmorah Public told Daily Mail Australia they were in the dark about the news and were not told dates and times of the exposure.

'We have not been contacted individually by the school or NSW health. We got a general notification last night,' she said.

'I'm still waiting to hear what days/ classes as I have worked, attended medical appointments and shopped in the past few days so wish I knew more so I could warn colleagues and doctors.

Two students at Lake Munmorah Public School tested returned positive coronavirus results overnight, sending two schools and hundreds of staff and kids into isolation

There are also two positive cases at Maitland Christian School in the Hunter Valley, with parents and teachers being informed via email on Thursday morning

'My partner has taken my son for a test this morning, because I feel lost just waiting around for updates. 

'The school is only open to essential workers so it shouldn't be that hard to let everyone know if the child is a close contact or casual contact.'

There were huge queues at Warners Bay drive-thru clinic as students, parents and staff rushed to seek tests.

The clinic was at full capacity and opening intermittently as a huge stretches of cars waited to be tested. 

There are now mass testing events being conducted at drive-thru clinics across the region including Maitland Hospital, University of Newcastle and John Hunter Hospital. 

NSW Health have attended Lake Munmorah Public and a deep cleaning is underway after two children tested positive for Covid overnight on Wednesday

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed there were fragments of Covid discovered in nearby sewer systems in Newcastle

Despite the urgings of the Premier and health authorities for people to get vaccinated, many were still finding it difficult or impossible to do so via the booking app due to the lack of availability of appointments to get the second jab.

The Premier acknowledged the shortcomings of the booking system but said 'chinks' in the system were being ironed out and urged people to keep trying, or otherwise access the vaccines from local GPs, walk-in no-booking-required hubs and pharmacies.

'I'm told by today and tomorrow people will see improvements in terms of booking,' the Premier said.

'Don't give up, if you get frustrated the first time around, there's multiple ways in which you can access that.'

She also accepted ultimate culpability for the slow delivery of government payments designed to help businesses and furloughed or laid-off staff get through lockdown.

 'I apologise to anyone who has experienced unnecessary delay, because every day causes additional stress,' Ms Berejiklian said.

'I'm the Premier, so the buck stops with me. I have to make sure we make the processes as efficient as possible, as streamlined as possible.' 

NSW Health issued a message to regional residents last Friday (pictured) to advise their Pfizer appointments had been cancelled 

NSW Health confirmed Wednesday the sewer systems in Shortland, Burwood Beach and Belmont had all discovered fragments of Covid, plants that service 400,000 residents. 

'There were very high rates of virus detected in the sewage in the Hunter, Newcastle area,' NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. 

Birmingham Gardens, Maryland, Shortland, Cameron Park, Fletcher, Minmi, Mayfield, Stockton and Fern Bay have all been listed as areas of concern. 

Lake Munmorah Public lies on Carters Road, a street that has three other schools on it within close promixity - Lake Munmorah High, St Brigid's Catholic College and St Brendan's Lake Munmorah.

There are growing fears the positive students could trigger a super-spreader event through the four schools and into surrounding regional areas. 

'The NSW Department of Education has been advised by NSW Health that two students at our school have tested positive for Covid-19,' Principal Narelle Baldwin said in a statement.

'Our school will be non-operational effective immediately for the on-site attendance of staff and visitors to allow time for contact tracing and cleaning.

'All staff and students are asked to self-isolate until you receive further advice. 

'The NSW Department of Education will continue to work closely with NSW Health to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff is maintained. 

'While we recognise this will be disruptive and inconvenient for families, it is important that we follow NSW Health advice and take all necessary precautions to minimise the risk of further transmission to support our community.' 

Parents and staff at Maitland Christian were contacted via email on Thursday morning, confirming the two positive cases and asking people to immediately pick up their kids.

'Our school has been advised by NSW Health that two students at our school have tested positive for COVID-19,' the message reads.

'Please collect your children immediately, even if you are an essential worker.

'Our school will be non-operational effective immediately for the on-site attendance of staff and visitors to allow time for contact tracing and cleaning. 

'All staff and students are asked to self-isolate until you receive further advice. Children will be safely supervised until picked up this morning, but please treat this as urgent for colleciton of all students immediately.' 

Local member for Wyong David Harris confirmed the cases to at least three students at Lake Munmorah Public and Morisset High.  

'Last night unfortunately a family has tested positive closing two schools,' he said Thursday morning.

Parents and staff at Maitland Christian were contacted via email on Thursday morning, confirming the two positive cases and asking people to immediately pick up their kids

'Now hundreds of children and families will be on edge waiting to find out if there's been further spread.' 

He said his wife, who is a teacher at Lake Munmorah Public, was booked in for the Pfizer jab last week, only to be told her vaccine was going to Sydney Year 12 students. 

The Target worker worked a five-hour shift while infectious, with the shop now a high-risk exposure site.

Anyone in attendance on Sunday August 1 between 8:30am and 1:30pm must immediately get tested and isolate. 

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper confirmed the Target has been closed for deep cleaning. 

'I am not aware of any other exposure sites at this stage,' he said.

'We will know more later this morning.' 

A child at Morisset High School has tested for coronavirus plunging the students and staff immediately into isolation

Parents voiced their distress on social media after being notified of the outbreak through the school's Facebook page.

'Does anyone know what days? My child attends a few days a week when I work, obviously we will isolate and test but I'm wondering if I need to warn people I've worked with,' one mother wrote.

'Cassie it's really hard hey. Not enough information about what we are to do when this happens,' another parent posted. 

'Praying for everyone , my grandkids attend the school and have been going to school during lockdown , praying for a good outcome prayers,' a grandparent commented. 

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