The extension of Greater Sydney's lockdown, now in its fifth week, is all but assured after case numbers rose to a new peak and more COVID-19 patients were hospitalised.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has promised to provide a roadmap for restrictions after July 30, the lockdown's nominal end, as soon as Wednesday.
But she acknowledged the case numbers were not where they needed to be for lockdown to lift.
Media on Tuesday night reported the Sydney lockdown would be extended by four weeks, with construction work to resume in non-hotspot areas from Saturday.
A singles bubble will also be introduced, while cabinet was considering rapid antigen testing for Year 12 students and essential workers.
The outbreak reached a new daily high with 172 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday - up from 145 the previous day.
At least 79 of those people were active in the community for all or part of their infectious period.
The source of infection for 87 cases is under investigation, with 85 linked to a known case or cluster.
The death toll, which stands at ten for this outbreak, is bound to rise, said NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
"You have to assume the more people who get the virus the more deaths we will have," Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Tuesday.
Two women in their 80s who died on Monday were both infected by someone they lived with and both were unvaccinated, Ms Berejiklian said.
"A lot of people have died because someone very close to them has brought the disease home to them.... we don't want to see more of that," she said.
She again urged people to play by the rules and get vaccinated to protect their friends and family.
The numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospital are rising rapidly, now at 169 - up from 156 in the previous 24-hours.
Some 46 people are in intensive care, 19 of whom are ventilated.
As Ms Berejiklian revealed the virus is now spreading more in western Sydney than in the city's southwest, an apartment block in Blacktown was placed under police guard.
The 100 residents of the five-story, 50-unit community housing building have been sent into two weeks of isolation after six cases of COVID-19 were detected among three associated households in the building.
Some of those who had tested positive were on Tuesday taken out of the building and into hotel quarantine.
Authorities have promised to provide food and services including welfare checks to the residents.
Blacktown is one of the local government areas at the epicentre of Sydney's COVID outbreak and non-essential workers cannot leave, even for work.
One resident who has so far tested negative said the building was surrounded by police, media camera crews and security guards.
A cluster of cases has also emerged at Liverpool Hospital after two nurses and a student nurse tested positive.
Eight patients at the hospital have since caught the virus, as have other patients transferred to Fairfield Hospital.
A popular shopping centre in Sydney's southwest is also concerning authorities, after it was listed as a close contact venue for eleven consecutive days.
Multiple people with COVID-19 visited the Campsie Centre shopping mall between July 14 and July 24.
There was good news on Tuesday for the 60,000 residents of three regional NSW towns put into lockdown last week.
The stay-at-home order imposed on Orange City Council, Blayney Shire Council and Cabonne Shire Council areas will be lifted at 12.01am on Wednesday, NSW Health said.
The towns were plunged into a snap lockdown after a visiting Sydney delivery driver infected a local factory worker who then attended multiple venues.
"There has been no further transmission of COVID-19 detected in the region," NSW Health said.
A full list of NSW exposure sites can be found at health.nsw.gov.au
Australian Associated Press