Gladys Berejiklian says the NSW government is throwing ‘everything it can’ at the surging Indian Delta variant outbreak, shutting down construction and most retail.
But with case numbers surging to 110 on Wednesday, do the Premier and Dr Kerry Chant have any further measures left in their arsenal to ‘quash’ the virus?
Ms Berejiklian has refused to rule out tougher restrictions for the city’s five million residents if cases refuse to budge.
And the experience of other states shows that NSW could introduce even more devastating measures – such as a curfew or tighter travel limits – in a last resort scenario.
The question is whether such sweeping rules actually work, with experts arguing NSW’s next front in the war on the virus will be the lunch and tea rooms of nurses, police and postmen.
South Australia provided a stunning example of a draconian measure on Wednesday when Premier Steven Marshall imposed a 2.5km travel limit on the state’s residents.
Pressure’s on: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s government is battling a surging Delta variant outbreak in Sydney, shutting down construction sites and most retail. But the experience of other states shows that she could go further
If Sydney followed Melbourne 2020 or Adelaide 2021-style rules, these residents would only be allowed to travel 2.5km or 5km from their home to stroll along Bondi’s promenade
The Victorian government directed playgrounds shut during Melbourne’s second wave last year – leaving parents inside at home with their children
That’s even stricter than Melbourne’s 5km exercise bubbles which led Victoria’s Daniel Andrews to be labelled a ‘dictator’ last year. The restrictions came as South Australia reported 12 cases of the virus.
Meanwhile, several commentators have pointed to Victoria’s ‘harsh’ 2020 second wave regime as an example for Ms Berejiklian to follow.
Mr Andrews imposed a night time curfew on Australia’s second biggest city and required residents to carry masks even when exercising outside. The Victorian government also erected a ring of steel around the city to stop the virus reaching the regions and shut playgrounds – locking parents in with their kids.
But Professor Catherine Bennett, the chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said blanket measures like curfews won’t be necessary unless Sydney residents flout the rules.
Prof Bennett told Daily Mail Australia that Victoria’s strict measures weren’t ‘epidemiological’ rules – just ones that the police could enforce.
For example, police could easily check whether Victorians were 5km from their home as per the rules.
But it was difficult for officers to verify whether Victorians had followed the rule in place for some time, that they only attend one other person’s household.
Both Prof. Bennett and Australian National University infectious diseases expert Dr Peter Collignon said NSW should be focused on transmission in the workplace.
The once-lively streets of the Sydney CBD have been left almost devoid of life as the city faces an indefinite lockdown – making a curfew for Australia’s biggest city unlikely at this point
Authorities have been alarmed at the spread of the disease in multi-generational households in Sydney’s south-west. Above, police tape at the Green Valley home where mother-of-five Saeeda Shawka, 54, was found dead on Monday, after coming down with the virus
Covid tragedy: Mrs Shawka (centre) died after coming down with the disease. Her twin removalist sons Roni and Ramsen and her widower husband Adel are also infected
The virus will die out very quickly when its isolated to multi-generational households in south-west Sydney, Prof Bennett said.
‘This version of the virus will die out after 10 days in a household, because that gives you two or three infection cycles,’ she said.
But cases will dry up in NSW when people stop taking the virus home with them from work, she said.
The big threat? The lunch and tea rooms of essential workers.
‘One of the problems is a lot of the ongoing infections are actually happening in the workplaces of essential workers,’ Dr Collignon said.
‘Where you have to get more rigorous is in those essential workforces, whether they’re hospitals or police, to make sure people aren’t in tea rooms together.
Lunch outside, please, boys: Medical staff at a Sydney hospital stroll the streets in their masks and regulation blues. Experts say the state has seen an invisible spread among essential workers in tea rooms and at shift handovers
Infectious diseases expert Dr Peter Collignon (left) and epidemiologist Professor Catherine Bennett (right)
Prof. Collignon said one way for essential workers to protect themselves is to eat their lunch outside. Above, a pair of Sydney residents in Centennial Park at the weekend
‘You’ve got to go outside to eat. You can only be in the room by yourself. Because people take off their masks,’ Dr Collignon said.
NSW Health will be looking to ‘snip’ the transmission routes in workplaces, ‘breaking the circuit’ by stopping the virus spreading between households there, Prof. Bennett said.
One measure of doing so is simple, according to Dr Collignon.
‘It really does mean go outside an have your lunch,’ he said.
‘Take a sandwich and eat it outside.’
Sydney registers 110 Covid cases overnight with 43 infectious in the community after a record 84,000 tests as Gladys Berejiklian warns harsher restrictions will be needed if numbers don’t drop
Australia’s biggest state faces a nervous 72-hour wait to see whether harder lockdown restrictions will see case numbers in Sydney fall – after NSW recorded 110 new Covid-19 cases, of which 43 were in the community while they were infectious.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has consistently warned Sydney will only be released from lockdown when the number of the cases in the community reaches zero, said the Fairfield local government area in the city’s south-west was still seeing ‘consistently high’ levels of virus transmission.
She again urged Sydney’s five million residents to stay home as the lockdown stretches to close to four weeks.
The new locally-acquired cases came from a NSW pandemic-record 84,000 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday night. Thirteen of the infections have yet to be linked to known cases.
Of the new cases, 43 were active in the community and 17 were only isolating for part of their infectious period.
There are now 106 patients in NSW hospitals suffering from Covid-19. Twenty-three are in intensive care (down four from Tuesday) and 11 of them (same as Tuesday) requiring ventilation.
Executive Director Health Protection NSW Dr Jeremy McAnulty said transmission was also increasing in the city’s west as the epicentre of the highly-contagious Delta outbreak threatens to shift again.
He said officials wanted to see higher testing rates in the western Sydney suburbs of Seven Hills, Mount Druitt, Rooty Hill and Toongabbie.
Ms Berejiklian meanwhile refused to rule out introducing even tougher restrictions in Greater Sydney if the highly-contagious Delta variant continues to spread throughout the city.
She said it would be impossible to plan a path out of lockdown until the case numbers started to fall and admitted if there isn’t a consistent fall by the weekend, she would have to introduce even tougher restrictions.
‘NSW is putting in place tougher restrictions than we’ve ever done in the past,’ she said when asked whether Sydney’s lockdown – which expires on July 30 – would be further tightened.