The Australian Medical Association is urging the NSW Government to enforce stricter lockdown restrictions as the state battles to control the spread of the the highly infectious Delta strain.
New South Wales recorded 97 new COVID-19 cases on Friday morning with at least 29 people infectious while in the community, and Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned the numbers are expected to spike on the weekend.
The premier has been criticised for not defining what is essential work and has resisted calls to close retails outlets, including luxury handbag and shoe stores, or make masks mandatory outdoors.
But on Friday, she stressed “we will not hesitate to go harder” on restrictions to drive the number of infections down.
“We need to make sure that any decisions we take will have the desired effect of reducing those numbers,” she said.
But AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid says the government can’t afford to wait any longer.
“The latest COVID-19 infection numbers in Greater Sydney show while the virus is not escalating out of control, current restrictions are not strong enough to bring overall infection numbers down any time soon,” he said in a statement.
He said the number of unlinked cases and the number of people infectious in the community show the state is “not ahead” of this outbreak.
“This means there is no end to the lockdown in sight and more needs to be done,” he added.
He is calling on the premier to close all non-essential retail outlets, non-essential services and reviewing limits on how far people can travel from their home.
He says allowing non-essential retail stores to remain open not only “sends the wrong message” but also “increases the risk of transmission” – “telling the community not to browse the shops is not enough”.
“A range of non-essential workplaces also remain open, which we know from the Victorian experience last year needed to be closed or operated under strict limits in order for its outbreak to be brought under control,” he added.
“There is confusion about what is considered essential and non-essential, and the AMA believes it is time for NSW to follow the Victorian approach which gives a clear definition for the public and the business community.”
Khorshid said while he appreciated “how hard things are” for Greater Sydney residents, a further delay “will simply make things much worse”.
NSW AMA President Dr Danielle McMullen agreed that with infection numbers remaining “stubbornly high”, Sydney was facing “the increasing prospect of a long and protracted lockdown and the growing risk of the virus spreading to regional areas”.
“At the moment when people need to leave home to exercise or go shopping, they are allowed to travel 10km, we believe 5km would be a more effective restriction,” she said.