The New South Wales Government is considering whether it has to abandon its "zero Covid" goal and accept that the Delta strain will circulate in the community.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that senior ministers have acknowledged the state has reached a "fork in the road".
"What has become clear is we have reached a fork in the road," one unnamed minister told the newspaper.
"We have to decide whether we accept a lockdown so that we get cases down to zero or whether we do what no other state has done and accept the virus will circulate in the community."
Another minister told the newspaper that one concern was that people were not as diligent about staying home this time around because they "look to overseas, and they don't see people in body bags like they did last year".
Infectious diseases expert Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah from Melbourne's Alfred Health described the reports as "irresponsible commentary".
"Again, what's the actual agenda here? There's no - I'm going to paraphase Joe Biden here, there's no living with Covid," Ananda-Rajah told ABC News Breakfast. "There's only dying with Covid in an unvaccinated population. Covid zero is the only goal that this whole country should be aiming for while we remain susceptible to this virus."
Ananda-Rajah said "trying to negotiate with the Delta variant" was a "dangerous game of political brinksmanship".
"They're trying to chase down an accelerating train here and frankly it's irresponsible and dangerous," she said.
"We have to return to elimination, we need to return to Covid zero as quickly as possible in order to prevent our hospitals from overflowing and our cemeteries from overflowing."
She suggested NSW's lockdown should be more like Victoria's, where virtually all businesses were shut down and people were not allowed to travel more than 5km from home.
Delta variant a 'game changer'
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday that vaccination was the key to beating Delta, which she described as a "game changer".
Hours later, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced 300,000 extra vaccines would be fast-tracked to southwestern Sydney.
Australian Medical Association boss Omar Khorshid warned there was "no alternative to elimination for NSW", and that "nowhere in the world has any community been able to live with Delta without very significant levels of vaccination".
The news comes as southwest Sydney faces a massive Covid-19 crackdown, with more than 100 extra police hitting the streets this morning, after the highest daily case numbers in the outbreak so far sparked grim warnings.
Berejiklian on Thursday said the 38 new cases of community transmission were "too high", as she blamed people visiting extended family for spreading the virus in household settings – and would not guarantee the lockdown would end next Friday.
Khorshid said NSW may have to implement harsher restrictions, warning there is "no such thing as living with Delta" and that the state's goal must be "elimination" of the variant.