Health policy expert says Melbourne lockdown was ‘the best’ and Sydney has four days to turn COVID crisis around

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Melbourne’s lockdown was the best in Australia – and superior to the one currently endured by Sydneysiders, a health policy expert has declared.

Bill Bowtell, health policy expert at the University of NSW, spoke to Sunrise on Friday where he said Sydney’s approach to tackling the current COVID outbreak was “not enough” to stop the virulent Delta strain.

He disputed NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s claim that the current lockdown restrictions affecting eight LGAs “of concern” in Sydney were “the harshest in Australia”.

The two million people in eight western Sydney LGAs can’t leave those areas unless they are essential workers.

Masks are also mandatory at all times – including outdoors – and people are banned from going more than 5km from their home.

“The harshest, best restrictions that can get rid of Delta were the ones adopted in Melbourne five weeks ago when they moved swiftly, stopped Delta over a few weeks and have now come out of lockdown,” Bowtell told Sunrise.

Bill Bowtell spoke to Kochie on Sunrise. Credit: Seven

“These restrictions are not what is going to get rid of Delta anytime soon in Sydney.

“It was a very black day yesterday, 239 new cases, and it looks like it might go in the wrong direction now today and for the next few weeks.

“A lot more has to be done than is being done by the government.”

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‘There’s no way out of this by vaccinations in four weeks…’

Bowtell had a sobering warning about how many days Sydney had left to beat back Delta.

“There’s no way out of this by vaccinations in four weeks or four months,” he said.

“It’s what happens in the next four days that’s absolutely critical to return Sydney to zero soon.”

Bowtell disputed NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s claim that the current lockdown restrictions affecting eight LGAs ‘of concern’ in Sydney were ‘the harshest in Australia’.
Bowtell disputed NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s claim that the current lockdown restrictions affecting eight LGAs ‘of concern’ in Sydney were ‘the harshest in Australia’. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Bowtell has said the best vaccine is “money” and that if governments want to stop people moving around they need to pay them more.

Bowtell said things were “a lot better than they were a week ago” but residents were still struggling financially.

“We saw the figures a few days ago that grocery shopping figures over the last six weeks have collapsed by about 20 per cent…” he said.

“That’s a pretty good indication that people are struggling to pay just for the basic food items. So the money will help but it’s got to be generous and if necessary it’s got to go up.”

Military called in

The military will join NSW police in the areas worst hit by Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak to ensure two million residents are complying with tough NSW government lockdown restrictions.

As NSW braces for new case numbers, police will begin knocking on doors looking for people in homes other than their own in eight local government areas in the west.

Police will also target businesses across the city breaching public health orders, including those in the construction industry allowed to reopen from Saturday.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller addresses media during a press conference.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller addresses media during a press conference. Credit: DAN HIMBRECHTS/AAPIMAGE

Their efforts will be supported in the coming days by ADF members, who begin deploying on Friday to train over the weekend before commencing working under the direction of NSW Police on Monday.

“We know home-to-home transmission is a huge issue for us, we know people are bringing it home from worksites that aren’t complying,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.

But he stopped short of “random” checks on homes, saying police would monitor close contacts and had the power to stop people in public and ask for their home addresses.

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