Sydney lockdown shock as Gladys Berejiklian admits NSW has failed to ‘quash’ Covid outbreak | New South Wales

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Lockdown restrictions in Greater Sydney will be drastically tightened after the New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, conceded measures introduced three weeks ago were failing to stop an outbreak of more than 1,000 cases.

Berejiklian made the changes after repeatedly denying in the past week that there was any need to harden restrictions, saying people could use their “common sense” to decide whether they were an essential workplace that had to stay open.

But as the state recorded 111 Covid-19 cases – including 29 who had been in the community while infectious – Berejiklian said there was no choice but to pull the trigger on the toughest restrictions implemented in NSW during the pandemic. She insisted the government had not received health advice at any other time during the outbreak that had justified the measures announced on Saturday.

The entire construction industry will be closed, essential businesses have been defined for the first time, meaning hundreds of others will have to close, and the residents of three local government areas in Sydney’s south-west will be unable to leave unless they are health or emergency services workers.

A man in his 80s from south-western Sydney has died, the second death of the outbreak, while 75 people remain in hospital, 18 in intensive care, six requiring a ventilator.

“We want to make sure we have a no regrets policy,” Berejiklian said. “We want to make sure we get out of this lockdown as soon as we can.”

Berejiklian repeatedly made reference to wanting to “quash” the outbreak, and to the fact there was “no perfection during a pandemic”.

“We have certainly prevented thousands and thousands of cases but we haven’t managed to quash the curve and that is why the New South Wales government is taking further action from today.

“I know that many people will be very angry and upset with me, with the government, but please know that we’re making these decisions for no other reason than because they are the right decisions.

“We want to get out of this as quickly as possible. This Delta variant has been a challenge for every single nation on the planet. We are no different from that.”

The decision to prevent residents from Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury Bankstown local government areas leaving for work, unless they are health or emergency services workers, was taken after a significant proportion of the state’s positive cases were recorded there (80 of 111 on Saturday, 60 of which were in Fairfield).

John Gilmore, the chief executive of Community First Step, a not-for-profit organisation based in Fairfield, said that while the decision was not unexpected, it still came as a shock.

He has grave concerns about the well-being of residents in the area, many of whom come from culturally and linguistically diverse and low socio-economic backgrounds.

Food insecurity was an increasing problem and there remained concerns about the ability for some school children to learn remotely, with Gilmore hearing stories about multiple children in the same household only being able to access a single smartphone to do their schoolwork. He said communities who may have already felt isolated because of their ethnic backgrounds or language barriers were feeling more alone than ever.

“I am absolutely in favour of lockdown and advocating that it should go ahead, but the longer it goes on the more it impacts on our communities,” Gilmore said.

The Unions NSW secretary, Mark Morey, said that the decision to shut down construction and non-essential work meant the federal government’s jobkeeper wage subsidy had to be revived.

The shutdown of the construction sector is expected to cost $800m to $1bn per week.

“The combined effect of closing retail, construction, hospitality, events and other industries is a mammoth hit to household incomes,” he said. “While lockdown is now the only option, the onus is on the state and federal governments to provide economic security.”

The Business NSW chief executive, Daniel Hunter, said he supported the need for a tougher health response but said the economic fallout would be immense.

“There’s no sugar coating that it will have a huge impact on all businesses right across NSW,” he said.

The NSW chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said on Saturday that the 81,928 tests received was a record.

She urged people throughout the state to be vigilant, as there had been sewage detections of the virus in suburbs without a positive case, and a group of workers from Sydney who later tested positive had been permitted to work in regional areas in the state’s west and north.

In Victoria, the state recorded 19 new cases, all of which were linked to existing cases. The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, said that on average each new case spent 1.5 days in the community.

The state is in the second day of a five-day lockdown.

“Our public health team is responding quicker than they ever have before because this virus is moving quicker than it ever has before,” Foley said. “It shows the value of going hard, and going early to make sure that we get our arms around this as quickly as we possibly can.”

Victoria’s Covid-19 testing commander, Jeroen Weimar, said there were more than 10,000 primary close contacts who have been identified and 165 exposure sites, with significant outbreaks linked to the MCG, an apartment complex, and a school.

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