A lockdown extension is firming after another six cases of coronavirus in Hunter New England were announced yesterday, taking the region's cluster to 26.
Three cases remain under investigation while one has been linked to last week's Maitland Christian School closure and two to the University of Newcastle cluster.
Jesmond Public School has also advised one of its students has the virus.
The Tamworth concerns follow Armidale going into lockdown on Saturday after a woman contracted the virus in Newcastle and travelled to the New England town.
With the region's case numbers rising and NSW recording 283 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm Sunday, 60 of which were infectious in the community, there are concerns the Hunter lockdown will be extended beyond 5pm Thursday. About 89 per cent of people who have voted on a Newcastle Herald website poll believe it will be.
"I think the numbers speak for themselves," NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Monday.
Federal opposition MP Pat Conroy, whose Shortland electorate includes the Belmont vaccination hub that was stripped of vaccines in recent weeks before the federal government committed to reinstating them, said the region was no chance of coming out of lockdown.
"How can we end the lockdown if people wait four days for their test results - if they can get a test," he said. "We're still [tracing] people from exposure sites from 10 days ago all because the NSW government and the federal government don't have sufficient supports in place."
Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison wants the government to employ more contract tracers and to distribute vaccines to all essential workers in the Hunter, including supermarket workers, teachers, early childhood educators, health and disability support workers.
"There are clearly delays in the contract tracing that must urgently be fixed," she said. "We know that people have to reduce their movement and that is the point of lockdown. I am very pleased that there has been, from the vast majority of people, a good response complying with lockdown. However Contract tracing is pivotal to our capacity to stop further spread and every minute counts from the moment someone is notified they have tested positive to their contacts and venues they have visited being notified."
Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes said with the Hunter's case numbers topping 20, the region was at clearly risk of an extended lockdown. He questioned whether the punishments for people doing the wrong thing were enough to deter breaches.
"If people continue to bend the rules, we're looking at continual shutdowns," he said. "Any business currently on a knife's edge will then surely be at risk of closure. When you consider the weight of the economic and health costs, it is arguable the sanctions for breaches are not going far enough - they are clearly not a deterrent for some people."
The new Hunter cases include a young woman in Maitland linked to last week's Maitland Christian School closure, as well as a Newcastle woman in her 20s and a Toronto man both linked to the university cases.
Investigations were continuing into the infection source for a Maitland man in his 20s, a Medowie man in his 40s and a man in his 40s from Newcastle.
Anyone who attended Habesha Ethiopian Restaurant at The Junction between July 31 and August 5 or Mr Rice Takeaway on Darby Street from 3pm to 3.20pm on August 4 is considered a close contact, Hunter England Health said. They must get tested and isolate for 14 days. Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said NSW Health had also advised her that anyone who attended Coles Medowie from 6.15pm to 6.45pm on Wednesday August 4 was a casual contact.
Anyone who visited Aldi Raymond Terrace between 4.05am and 4.30am also fell in that category, she said.
Casual contacts must get tested and isolate until they return a negative result.
Positive customers had also shopped at Coles at Wallsend and Toronto, according to the supermarket giant. On its website, Coles said a positive case visited Wallsend between 4.45pm and 5.15pm on August 2, making anyone in the store at that time a casual contact. At Toronto, the customer who tested positive attended between 5.20pm and 5.35pm the same day.
"Frequent cleaning and sanitisation has occurred in the time since the customer was last on site," Coles said in a statement.