The growing number of Covid-19 cases in Sydney could force authorities to split the city in half - tightening lockdowns in the virus-ravaged south-west while the rest of the city roams free.
Gladys Berejiklian's government have been left scratching their heads looking for a way to tackle consistently high case numbers in the state without tanking Sydney's economy by keeping business owners and consumers in lockdown until September.
Stay-at-home orders have been in place for almost five weeks, but New South Wales still recorded 145 new cases on Monday including 76 people who were active in the community while infectious.
With lockdown set to end on July 30, members of a five-hour crisis cabinet meeting on Monday deliberated over whether to strengthen restrictions only in areas hit hardest by the virus - such as Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool.
There were also conversations about whether to ease public health orders the Northern Beaches, Wollongong and Shellharbour - all of which have not seen any new cases in about a month.
Sydney could be split in two, with people from Covid-ravaged areas facing tighter lockdowns. Pictured: A woman walking along Bondi Beach on Monday
Government authorities are unsure how to tackle the state's growing number of Covid cases. Pictured: People in Bondi on Monday
A decision will likely be made on Tuesday as to what lockdown looks like after July 30. Pictured: Residents of Bondi on Monday
Government sources told The Australian that they are not allowed to speak about the meeting, but they did say regions around Orange, in the state's Central West, would emerge from a week-long lockdown at 11.59pm on Tuesday - as originally planned.
Attendees were allowed to deliberate on their positions overnight, with key decisions set to be made on Tuesday.
Economic modelling commissioned by Treasurer Dominic Perrottet projected the fallout of keeping the city locked down until mid-September would result in mass job losses.
Other members of the crisis cabinet, including the state's chief health officer Kerry Chant, would like a restrained approach and told reporters on Monday that restrictions should stay 'as tight as possible'.
Covid-addled parts of the state could be in lockdown for longer than other areas, depending on figures this week. Pictured: Police walking down the street in south-west Sydney
Pictured: Police on horses in south-west Sydney, after a spike in positive cases
Pictured: Police intervening at a protest held in Bankstown, south-west Sydney
At a press conference on Monday, Ms Berejiklian remained tight-lipped about what lockdown will look like post July 30, but she said risk factors would be weighed against residents' freedoms.
'Our mission is to keep the community as safe as possible, but also to make sure we allow the community to live as freely as we can as well,' she said.
'There's no doubt that some restrictions have better effects than others, and that is the advice we'll get from our health experts in consultation with other officials.'
On Tuesday morning it was revealed that a five-storey apartment building in Blacktown, in the city's south-west, is in lockdown with more than 100 people isolating after several people inside the complex tested positive.
Police officers will remain outside the flats for the two week period to ensure no one leaves or enters
An apartment building in Sydney's south-west is in lockdown with more than 100 people isolating after several people inside the complex tested positive
As many as 100 residents will be locked inside their flats for the next two weeks after several linked cases have been recorded in the building
Residents of the Blacktown apartment building are all being tested as health officials in full PPE remain stationed outside
Officials have discovered several cases inside the flats are linked, leading to New South Wales Health taking over, with pathology teams onsite
The unit block is under police guard with a mass testing operation underway after the building on Devitt Street was listed as a high-risk exposure site.
Officials discovered several cases inside the flats are linked, leading to New South Wales Health taking over, with pathology teams onsite and further calls for vaccines to be prioritised for the area.
A resident of the building said everyone inside is 'so stressed' after nurses descended en masse, quickly performing swabs on the 50 units.
'My kids can't go to school, we can't go out for two weeks and I can't work,' the woman told the Telegraph.
Despite the concentration of cases in the city's south-west, of most concern to contact tracers on Monday night was an entire shopping centre in Campsie, which was exposed to the virus for 11 days between Wednesday July 14 and Saturday July 24.
Ms Berejiklian would not say whether Sydney will be out of lockdown after July 30. Pictured: People in Bondi on Monday
While Bondi (pictured) was at the centre of Sydney's latest outbreak in June, the cases have moved out to the south-west
The shopping complex has become the scene of multiple transmissions of the virus, forcing thousands of shoppers and staff into isolation.
It was one of a whopping 67 new exposure sites listed by health officials on Monday night, including supermarkets, takeaways and chemists.
The 67 Covid exposure sites are mostly clustered across the west and south-western suburbs of Sydney, but with some concerning venues in the Central Coast.
Five people from a household in Budgewoi have tested positive to the virus, sparking a list of exposure sites 100km from Sydney.
Another person living in the home, who tested negative but should have been isolating, is understood to have visited 25 different shops in just five days.
Several venues in Tuggerah and Sam Remo on the Central Coast were visited by infected people, including Westfield Coles, Dan Murphy's and Smokemart.
Worryingly for health officials and policymakers, 51 of Monday's new cases were out in the community while infectious (pictured, a woman on an eerily quiet George Street in Sydney on Monday)
An urgent health alert has now been sent out to shoppers and staff who attended the busy Campsie Centre Shopping Mall (pictured) from anytime between July 14 to 24
Pictured: A graphic showing the number of infections per day in Sydney's current outbreak, which grew by 145 cases on Monday
Among the most concerning health alerts was the Campsie Centre Shopping Mall, with anyone who visited on the days listed at any time now considered a close contact and having to immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result.
The exposure is likely to plunge thousands into isolation.
'This venue was visited by confirmed cases of Covid-19 and onwards transmission has been detected,' NSW Health confirmed.
Among the huge number of other venues added to the ever-growing list was the Lobster Tail Fish Market in Bankstown Central, Prospect and Seven Hills Woolworths, Fairfield Coles, Paramatta Centrelink and T2 of Sydney's Domestic Airport.
Sydney's gruelling coronavirus lockdown is likely to be tightened even further after an explosion of Covid exposure sites were declared across the Harbour City on Monday night (pictured, a locked down Bondi Beach)
Aldi supermarket at Guildford in Sydney (pictured) was flagged as an exposure site for Saturday July 24
Woolworths in Sydney's Prospect (pictured) was listed as a Covid exposure site on Monday
It comes amid renewed calls for Sydneysiders to go out and get the Covid vaccine, with pharmacists now able to offer AstraZeneca to people over 40 without a referral from their doctor.
Key workers at supermarkets across the Covid-ravaged south-west suburbs are also being offered priority access to the Pfizer vaccine.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the number of unvaccinated people over the age of 60 is 'distressing' and urged everyone in the age bracket to make an appointment immediately.
It is not yet known if the two latest deaths announced on Monday, a man and a woman both in their 80s, had received a jab or if they had any underlying medical conditions.
The woman's body was found at a home in Pendle Hill in the south-west where a family had recently had an illegal gathering to mourn the loss of a different relative.
FIND THE LATEST EXPOSURE SITES NEAR YOU
Sydney's CBD is pictured almost empty on Monday as the brutal lockdown continued unabated
'When I review the numbers, to see how few over even 60-year-olds and over 70-year-olds we have managed to reach,' Dr Chant said.
'For me, anyone who is over 60 or over 70 should be going to their doctor as a matter of urgency, or their pharmacist which will be opening up across the state in coming days and get a dose of vaccine.'
Dr Chant speculated that NSW could administer more than 350,000 vaccines a day if there were no issues with supplies, but that the state would have to make do with the current shortage of Pfizer.
'There are priority groups, some of which are the responsibility of the Commonwealth, such as disability and aged care that we want to make sure are absolutely vaccinated,' she said.
Several supermarkets were listed as casual contact sites, including San Remo Coles (pictured)
Several venues at Westfield Tuggerah (pictured) on the NSW Central Coast are also on the list
She also said the jab will be available on a walk-in basis in some health clinics in an effort to target vulnerable groups, in a policy shift that will be announced on Tuesday.
It is unclear as to whether people under 40 will be able to get AstraZeneca without an appointment.
Ms Berejiklian said she 'argued her little heart out' for more Pfizer jabs during National Cabinet on Friday, but that health authorities would focus on the distribution of the jabs - ensuring they are given to young workers, which Dr Chant agreed with.
'It makes sense. The only people that are actually moving about are those essential workers,' the health officer said.
Despite the economic fallout, some cabinet members called for harsher measures to be introduced, particularly in Covid-ravaged Local Government Areas (pictured, a man is seen in a face shield at Auburn in Sydney)
'People that are working in logistics and distribution, critical workers that come from that area that supports Sydney and even NSW and beyond.
'It is important that we consider how vaccinating that group would potentially prevent transmission.'
Ms Berejiklian did not specify whether Greater Sydney would come out of lockdown after July 31.
'Please be assured that our mission is to keep the community safe as possible, while allowing people to live as freely as possible,' she said.
'In the next few days we will continue to look at the existing settings to give people certainty on what life in New South Wales beyond July 31 looks like.
'It is really important for people not to leave home unless they absolutely have to and, in particular, do not mingle.'
BUMPER LIST OF NSW COVID EXPOSURE SITES REVEALED MONDAY NIGHT
The following venue was visited by confirmed cases of COVID‑19 and onwards transmission has been detected. Anyone who attended the following venue on the days listed is a close contact and must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days from this day, regardless of the result.
Campsie: Campsie Centre Shopping mall 14-28 Amy Street From Wednesday 14 July to Saturday 24 July (inclusive)
Anyone who attended the following venues at the times listed is a close contact and must get tested and isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result.
Campsie: Campsie Growers Market 14-28 Amy Street. Thursday 22 July 6:00am to 6:00pm. Friday 23 July 6:00am to 4:00pm
Campsie: The World of Fruit 224 Beamish St. Monday 19 July 3:00pm to 4:00pm. Tuesday 20 July 11:00am to 12:00pm. Thursday 22 July 7:00am to 7:00pm. Friday 23 July 7:00am to 7:00pm
Campsie: Man Hing Chinese Takeaway Campsie Centre, 14-28 Amy Street. Friday 16 July 11:00am to 2:00pm. Saturday 17 July 11:00am to 2:00pm. Sunday 18 July 11:00am to 2:00pm. Monday 19 July 11:00am to 2:00pm. Tuesday 20 July 11:00am to 2:00pm
Merrylands: Triple 333 Medical Centre 333 Merrylands Road. Sunday 18 July All day
Lakemba: BD Fresh Vegetable Grocery 2/52 Railway Parade. Sunday 18 July 9:20am to 11am. Sunday 18 July 3pm to 3:15pm. Monday 19 July 10:40am to 11am
Lakemba: Ahmad Chami Butchery Shop 5, 60A The Boulevard. Monday 19 July 1pm to 2pm
Beaumont Hills: Chemist Warehouse 70 The Parkway. Monday 19 July 10:50am to 7:20pm. Tuesday 20 July 2:20pm to 10:50pm. Wednesday 21 July 2:40pm to 10:40pm. Thursday 22 July 2:30pm to 10:30pm. Friday 23 July 10:50am to 7:20pm
Mascot: DHL Express 3 Keith Smith Avenue. Sunday 18 July 6:15pm to 12pm. Monday 19 July 12am to 2:30am. Monday 19 July 12:45pm to 9pm
Lakemba: Exim Supermarket 70 Haldon Street. Monday 19 July 2pm to 3pm
Campsie: 85 Degrees Daily Cafe 216 Beamish Street. Sunday 18 July 2:30pm to 2:35pm. Monday 19 July 1:25pm to 1:30pm
Campsie: Campsie Growers Market Campsie Centre, Shop 5/14-28 Amy Street. Friday 16 July 5:30am to 6pm. Saturday 17 July 5:30am to 6pm. Sunday 18 July 5:30am to 6pm. Monday 19 July 5:30am to 6pm. Tuesday 20 July 5:30am to 6pm
Lakemba: Haldon Street Medical Practice 99/101 Haldon Street. Sunday 18 July 9am to 3pm. Monday 19 July 8:15am to 6:30pm. Tuesday 20 July 8:15am to 11am. Wednesday 21 July 10am to 11am
Anyone who attended the following venues at the times listed is a casual contact who must immediately get tested and isolate until a negative result is received.
Wetherill Park: Chemistworks 561 Polding Street. Monday 12 July 3:30pm to 4:00pm. Monday 12 July 4:20pm to 4:45pm. Tuesday 20 July 2:00pm to 2:20pm
Auburn: Auburn Central Shopping Centre 57-59 Queen St. Saturday 17 July 2:25pm to 4:05pm. Saturday 17 July 2:55pm to 3:40pm
Kogarah: Fardoulis Sweet and Nuts 129 Princes Hwy. Wednesday 21 July 12:00pm to 5:45pm. Thursday 22 July 12:00pmto 5:45pm. Friday 23 July 12:00pm to 5:45pm
Bankstown: Sairays Grocery Store Shop 2/83-99 North Terrace. Sunday 18 July 6:50pm to 7:00pm. Monday 19 July 3:00pm to 3:10pm
San Remo: Singletons Butchery Northlakes Shopping Centre, 17-21 Pacific Highway. Wednesday 21 July 1:55pm to 2:05pm
San Remo: Northlakes Shopping Centre 17-21 Pacific Highway. Wednesday 21 July 1:55pm to 2:20pm. Thursday 22 July 11:05am to 11:30am. Friday 23 July 2:20pm to 3:05pm. Saturday 24 July 1pm to 1:15pm. Sunday 25 July 9:40am to 10:15am
San Remo: Coles 21 Pacific Highway. Wednesday 21 July 2:05pm to 2:20pm. Friday 23 July 2:35pm to 2:50pm. Sunday 25 July 9:45am to 10:15am
Northlakes: Priceline Pharmacy Northlakes Shopping Centre, 17-21 Pacific Highway. Thursday 22 July 11am to 11:30am. Friday 23 July 2:20pm to 2:40pm
Lake Haven: Lake Haven Shopping Centre Lake Haven Drive and Goobarabah Avenue. Saturday 24 July 10:15am to 10:50am
Lake Haven: Coles Lake Haven Shopping Centre, Lake Haven Drive and Goobarabah Avenue. Saturday 24 July 10:15am to 10:25am
Lake Haven: Priceline Pharmacy Lake Haven Shopping Centre, Lake Haven Drive and Goobarabah Avenue. Saturday 24 July 10:20am to 10:40am
Charmhaven: Bunnings Warehouse Cnr Chelmsford Road and Pacific Highway. Saturday 24 July 12:25pm to 12:45pm. Saturday 24 July 1:25pm to 1:45pm
San Remo: Charmhaven Newsagency Northlakes Shopping Centre, 15/17 Pacific Highway. Sunday 25 July 9:40am to 9:50am
St Marys: Astley Pharmacy and Mobility Mamre Road. Wednesday 14 July 11am to 11:15am. Sunday 18 July 5:25pm to 5:35pm
Fairfield Heights: Woolworths, Fairfield Heights 186 The Boulevarde. Wednesday 21 July 12:30pm to 12:40pm. Thursday 22 July 1:40pm to 2pm. Friday 23 July 2:30pm to 3pm. Friday 23 July 7:30pm to 8pm
Fairfield: Danny's Meat Market Butcher Fairfield West Market Plaza, 8 Station Street. Thursday 22 July 4:30pm to 4:40pm
Kogarah: Fardoulis Sweets & Nuts 129 Princes Highway. Wednesday 21 July 12pm to 5:45pm. Thursday 22 July 12pm to 5:45pm. Friday 23 July 12pm to 5:45pm
Mount Druitt: Coles Westfield Luxford Road. Friday 16 July 8am to 9am
Seven Hills: Woolworths Seven Hills Seven Hills Plaza, 224 Prospect Highway. Thursday 15 July 3:25pm to 5pm. Thursday 15 July 2pm to 3:30pm. Saturday 17 July 9:30am to 10:30am. Sunday 18 July 8:20am to 8:45am
Wetherill Park: Coles Wetherill Park Stockland Wetherill Park, 561-563 Polding Street. Sunday 18 July 3:45pm to 3:55pm