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Masks, Sanitiser, Gloves Stolen From Hospitals, Leaving Authorities 'Mortified'

Health workers are going without essential hygiene items because thieves are stealing them from hospitals, leaving doctors and nurses at coronavirus risk.

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard said he was "mortified" to receive reports of protective equipment like masks and gloves being taken from health facilities, as well as hand sanitiser dispensers being "ripped" from walls.

"I cannot think of anything more appalling. These are frontline staff who will keep you and your family alive," he said at a press conference in Sydney on Sunday.

NSW Health said washing hands with simple soap and water was more than fine for people in the community to combat virus spread.

Masks and other hygiene items are being stolen from hospitals. Image: Getty

Hazzard announced NSW's coronavirus cases had increased to 1791, the most in the country. Eight people have died in the state.

He also gave an emotive plea for people to follow public warnings on social distancing and self-isolation, calling coronavirus a "hidden enemy".

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"We need to take extreme caution in many, many ways," he said.

"Every single person in New South Wales should be behaving today as if they have COVID-19. Stay away from anybody, just 1.5 metres away. It's not that hard to ask. It may go on for months but it is not indefinite and will keep you, your ones and others safe."

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said people need to realise the world has changed. Image: AAP

NSW continues to have the most cases, but the rate of growth has eased slightly in recent days. Several high profile clusters -- including the Ruby Princess cruise ship and several parties at Bondi -- as well as big numbers of people gathering on beaches without keeping a proper distance apart, have seen numbers swell, leading to Hazzard issuing a direct plea for people to follow instructions.

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"I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that there is a relatively small but very significant section of the community who think that the world is as it was in 2019. It is not," he said.

"The fact of the matter is our entire world has an enemy which is moving through it, an unseen enemy. It does not have orders and it it is impacting massively on communities around the world and it is starting to impact in a way that no citizen in New South Wales or Australia could have dreamt of just two months ago."

Beachgoers are seen at Bondi Beach despite the threat of Coronavirus on March 200. Image: AAP

NSW is asking people to stay home whenever possible, but NSW Health's Dr Vicky Sheppeard later said that walking outside was allowed if social distancing was followed.

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"The health advice is you must socially distance. You must. This virus can do its evil best but it is not a high jumper, not a long jumper and as long as you are 1.5m away from somebody else, you have a fairly good chance, a reasonable chance, of not actually getting transmission of the virus," Hazzard said.

"Most of your time should be at home."

Sheppeard said that outdoor exercise and walking was permitted, saying it could be important for mental health, but stressed the importance of keeping physical separation.

Walking outside is fine, as long as people remain 1.5m apart, NSW Health saidImage: Supplied.

"While the premier is encouraging everybody to stay home, it is still OK, unless you are in isolation, to go outside as long as you practise social distancing," she said.

"Wash your hands before you go outside and once you come back inside. But being outside is OK, to enjoy our lovely autumn weather, and to walk as long as you are keeping away from other people at all times."