NSW has recorded its worst day of the COVID-19 pandemic with a record number of cases, five deaths and the Hunter region entering lockdown.
The premier also admits restrictions on the population of Greater Sydney and surrounds - approaching six full weeks in lockdown - will remain in some form until 80 per cent of people are vaccinated.
Of the 262 local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, at least 72 were in the community for all or part of their infectious period.
Five people in Sydney have also died - three men in their 60s, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s. None were fully vaccinated.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian also announced the Hunter region would enter a one-week lockdown until August 13 after cases were uncovered in the area.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said five people in the region had caught COVID-19 at a gathering at Blacksmiths Beach on Friday night where some guests are believed to have travelled from Sydney.
Lake Munmorah Public School is closed for cleaning after two students were detected with the virus, as well as one student at Morisset High School.
With daily infections remaining stubbornly high, Ms Berejiklian gave her strongest indication yet that vaccination is the only way out of the outbreak, having set a goal of six million jabs by month's end.
She also acknowledged the virulence of the Delta variant would compel the government to retain at least some restrictions until vaccination rates hit 80 per cent, pushing NSW into "Phase C" of the national rollout plan.
AstraZeneca is abundant in NSW, the government says, and the federal government has allotted an extra 180,000 Pfizer doses for the coming fortnight, compensating for regional doses reassigned to Year 12 students.
Year 12 is scheduled to resume face-to-face learning on August 16.
Ms Berejiklian also said the government was looking at vaccination incentives, with 43.78 per cent of residents over 16 jabbed at least once.
This may include allowing some fully vaccinated employees back to work, or a new "Dine and Discover" program for the vaccinated.
"We can try and eliminate (the virus) but we know the vaccine is critical to stopping the spread and allowing us to consider options moving forward," Ms Berejiklian said.
"We know too many authorised workers, people putting food on our table or taking care of our aged care facilities, are not vaccinated. If we didn't let these workers work, we'd have no food supplies and no essential services.
"The challenge is to get those people who are mobile vaccinated."
Meanwhile, the Therapeutic Goods Administration reported the death on Wednesday of a 34-year-old woman from thrombosis with thrombocytopenia (TTS), a rare clotting syndrome, following her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
SIx people have now died from the condition from about 6.8 million vaccine doses.
Since the end of June the highest number of infections (more than one quarter) had occurred among those aged 19 or younger.
There are currently 51 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, with 24 ventilated. Some 22 people have died in NSW amid the current outbreak.
In contrast to Ms Berejiklian's vaccine focus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sought to frame lockdowns as the key tool for virus suppression.
His government is responsible for the vaccination program, among the developed world's slowest, while Ms Berejiklian's government is responsible for public health measures such as lockdowns.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday also revealed payroll jobs had fallen 4.4 per cent in NSW over the first half of July as lockdowns drag on.
Australian Associated Press