NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned things are “going to get worse” as the state’s Covid-19 crisis deepens.
The Premier’s sobering comments come after NSW recorded 50 cases on Saturday – the most daily amount in the latest outbreak.
Stay-at-home orders have been tightened with a lockdown extension hanging on this week’s case numbers.
“That is the number we need to get down to as close to zero as possible,” Premier Berjiklian said.
“The only conclusion we can draw is that things are going to get worse before they get better.”
Premier Berejiklian will give an update on the latest figures at 1pm.
Harsher lockdown the only 'real option' left to save Sydney from Covid-19
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is being urged to call in the military to enforce a total lockdown in greater Sydney as a last-ditch effort to control the virus numbers amid fears infection rates are set to spike in coming days.
Epidemiologist Tony Blakely told news.com.au that the state faces three grim choices after daily case numbers spiked to 50 in a single day and the only “real option” was a draconian lockdown enforced with troops on the streets.
Those three options are: the ‘let it rip’ approach and allowing the Delta variant to circulate in the community, continue with a partial lockdown with many retail stores still open and a third option which is send in the troops and more police.
Divisions have emerged in recent days in the Berejiklian Government amid reports there was opposition in NSW cabinet to extending the lockdown, including from Treasurer Dominic Perrottet who is working on a major rescue and support package for businesses and workers left reeling from the shutdown.
But the NSW Premier has warned that allowing the virus to circulate is simply not an option until vaccination rates in Australia are much higher and a majority of the adult population is vaccinated.
“They can shrug their shoulders and say, ‘we can’t control it.’ That would be horrific. Thousands of deaths, health services overwhelmed,” Dr Blakely said
“Per capita, it could be worse than the United Kingdom, because the virus is so infectious. It would be absolutely stupid,” Blakely added.
“Other countries now that are doing that have already got a lot of immunity either through vaccination or infection. In the UK, remember when they first relaxed last year?
“If NSW did that now it would be far worse per capita because this virus is so much more infectious. The Federal Government and the states would have to redirect vaccines and just pout it into NSW. That’s just not pretty.”
The Melbourne University epidemiologist insisted the only “real option” now is to plunge the state into an even tougher, draconian lockdown for the next fortnight and shut down more retail stores.
Many of the transmission sites in recent days have been retail centres including Ikea, which has remained open, and questions over why non-essential stores including lingerie shops have remained open for browsing – until now.
“The third option is you get really serious about it. Absolutely rigid stay at home orders. No lingerie shops open. No retail open unless it’s essential. Everything that’s not absolutely essential is closed and you stay at home. That along with contact tracing after two or three weeks might be enough to get it under control,” Blakely said.
“The third option is the only one. It’s very hard to say those words: ‘We’re going into a hard lockdown, we’ve called in the military, the police and we are going to police it.’
“It’s not a pretty look but if you want it to be over and done with as quickly as possible that, most unfortunately, is what needs to happen.”
Any decision to call in the Australian Defence Force would require the NSW Premier to request assistance from the Morrison Government and that hasn’t occurred to date although NSW police have increased their presence dramatically in recent days.
Dr Blakely warned the alternative was a “soft” lockdown that could go on until August or September.
“If they keep going the way they are now, without really stepping it up now it could go on for months,” he said.
Despite a fortnight of lockdown, daily case numbers are now running at ten times the daily infection rate first reported in late June when Sydney was recording only 5 cases a day.
As a result, there are now more than 14,000 close contacts in isolation and millions of citizens in Sydney and other local government areas lockdown down in their homes under draconian laws that require them to only leave the house once a day for essential services including food.
Residents are also now prohibited from travelling more than 10km from their family home and are facing ID checks in the streets to prove where they live.
News.com.au also spoke to Victorian political leaders and experts about what lessons they had learned during the second wave and mistakes that NSW could learn from with many saying NSW had erred in failing to lockdown hard and earlier.
“The biggest is that we waited too long to lockdown in the second wave. We tried restrictions, then the public towers, then postcodes and by the time we did the whole joint it was way too late,” a Victorian MP said.
“She’s made the same blue – she’s waited about 3 to 4 days too long to crack down on the eastern suburbs, by which time it was out. She’s wasted too much time to move to lockdown, or whatever she called it and now she hasn’t gone far enough. Too much retail is still open. Why the hell are people going to IKEA?”.
“I think her biggest mistake was believing her own bullshit about how NSW was different. But most importantly, they had been very lucky and their luck ran out.”
Graph shows severity of Sydney outbreak compared with Victoria
A new graph has shown the severity of Sydney’s current covid outbreak in comparison to the Victorian outbreak that led to a 112-day lockdown.
The graph from website Covid19data.com.au shows the number of Covid cases in each state’s outbreak and how long the cluster took to rise.
It reveals the sobering news that the current Sydney outbreak looks disturbingly similar to Melbourne’s mega outbreak.
It comes as NSW Health added a large number of new venues of concern late on Saturday including two Coles stores, a KFC, Aldi and a Kmart.
The affected locations stretch from Penrith in the west to Sylvania in the south and Broadway shopping centre close to the CBD.
Greater Sydney’s lockdown could last until well into August, a number of health experts have warned.
NSW recorded another 50 Covid cases on Saturday, 37 of which were active in the community.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned the lockdown might be extended once again.
“The only conclusion we can draw is that things are going to get worse before they get better,” she told reporters.
Experts have agreed with her statement.
Professor Raina MacIntyre, the head of the biosecurity research programme at the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute, told Weekend Sunrise on Saturday the state was “really on the knife edge”.
“If we do not get this under control in the next few days, it could be very grim, and it could take much longer than we want to get it under control,” she said.
“In the best-case scenario, I think at least the rest of the month. In the worst-case scenario, even longer.”
Infectious diseases expert Professor Robert Booy, from the University of Sydney, said much the same.
“It would take at least four to six weeks in my view before we get out of lockdown, so end of July or into August.”
Speaking on Channel 9’s Today, UNSW epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws was equally as pessimistic, saying it would likely take well in to August to bring numbers down.
“We will get down in about three weeks. And then you’ll need another two to ensure you’ve got it right. So at least three weeks of a certain level of really strict restrictions.
“And then perhaps if we get this right, then a couple of weeks of lighter restrictions.”
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