A lockdown confining Sydneysiders to their homes and closing businesses school and other services to to stem an outbreak of the Delta Covid-19 strain would be premature given the minimal level of mystery transmission in the city, a leading epidemiologist has warned.
Health officials on Wednesday said they detected 13 new cases across New South Wales overnight – eight of whom went to the same ‘super-spreader’ party at West Hoxton in the city’s west.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian tightened household gathering limits to five visitors and made masks compulsory in all indoor venues, including workplaces and gyms.
But New South Wales leader refused to lockdown the city’s five million residents and at this stage, only those who have visited a hotspot with an infected person are being required to isolate for 14 days.
‘We have always said we will not burden our citizens unless we absolutely have to,’ Ms Berejiklian insisted after one TV journalist demanded to know why Sydney’s wasn’t in lockdown.
‘We know basically where the super spreading events have been, we know where the virus is circulating, and we don’t want to take any further action than what we have now,’ she explained.
‘This relies on all of us reining in our behaviour, all of us following the health orders that are coming into place.’
Her adamant declaration follows calls by experts such as World Health Organisation adviser Professor Mary-Louise McLaws to mandate stay-at-home orders in Sydney to reduce transmission.
Professor McLaws on Wednesday morning said authorities may be able to handle the outbreak more efficiently with a ‘quick, sharp stay at home order’.
‘We may need to think about a stay home order for a couple of days. I’m sure the authorities will feel quite confident by Saturday,’ the UNSW epidemiologist told ABC News Breakfast.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet earlier warned against ‘knee-jerk lockdowns’ and called for the states to set a target for the total reopening of the domestic borders.
Infectious disease expert Peter Collignon also told Daily Mail Australia a full-scale circuit-breaker lockdown would be excessive given the limited spread of untraced infections in New South Wales.
A staff member in a hi-vis jacket is pictured at St Charles Primary School at Waverley in Sydney after a child at the school contracted Covid-19. Premier Gladys Berejiklian has tightened Covid-19 restrictions but stopped short of introducing a full lockdown
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday refused to ban all of Sydney’s five million residents from regional travel
Four infections are now unlinked to existing outbreaks as the number of cases in the latest NSW outbreak grew to 31.
There was only one mystery case announced on Tuesday.
‘The real risk at all times is the number of mystery cases in the community. You put these kind of rules in when you have a lot of it circulating around,’ Professor Collignon said.
‘Outbreaks are still an ongoing issue, but so far in New South Wales we have been good at testing and contact tracing and these clusters tend to peter out.’
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has previously called the state’s contact tracing system the ‘diamond standard’.
Professor Collignon said the state government should show even more restraint than they showed over Christmas when an outbreak was discovered on Sydney’s northern beaches.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has warned against ‘knee-jerk lockdowns’ as a response to Covid-19 outbreaks and called for the states to set a target for the total reopening of the domestic borders. Pictured is a passenger at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport on May 6
Cars line up for Covid-19 testing at Bondi in Sydney on Tuesday. World Health Organisation adviser Professor Mary-Louise McLaws had called for a ‘quick, sharp stay at home order’
A worker directs traffic along Campbell Parade at the Bondi Beach drive-through Covid-19 Clinic on Wednesday. New South Wales has recorded 13 cases of Covid-19 community transmission overnight
‘Admittedly, it was summer rather than winter [when the spread of viral particles is lower] but there were more than 200 cases between the Avalon and Berala cluster,’ he said.
‘There are precedents where we’ve been able to control this lockdown with higher cases and haven’t gone into lockdown.’
Mr Perrottet said before Ms Berejiklian’s press conference on Wednesday morning his government would follow a ‘balanced and proportionate’ approach to the latest outbreak.
‘[Testing and isolation orders] have worked very well in this state and we will continue that approach going forward,’ he told Sky News.
‘We need to set a target for all the borders reopening because it’s very clear Covid is not going away – we can’t keep having knee-jerk lockdowns.’
Those who live and work in seven hotspot suburbs will not be allowed to leave metropolitan Sydney unless they have an essential reason
Her comments come as the Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Chris Moy said the ‘worrying numbers’ may mean it’s time to go into lockdown.
He told the NCA Newswire that the Delta strain was a lot more concerning and not even the diamond standard contact tracers in New South Wales may be able to nip it in the bud.
He said: ‘The bottom line is, if it keeps on escalating like this, it doesn’t matter how good your contact tracing is, they will be looking at pulling the lever on a lockdown.’
For the next week from 4pm on Wednesday, household gatherings will be limited to five visitors and masks will be compulsory in all all indoor, including workplaces and gym classes.
Drinking while standing at indoor venues will also be banned and those who live and work in seven hotspot council areas will not be allowed to leave metropolitan Sydney unless they have an essential reason.
Those council areas are the City of Sydney, Waverley, Woollahra, Bayside, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick – home to about 782,000 residents.
The tightened rules – which also include a 50 per cent capacity restriction for outdoor seated events – will apply to Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Central Coast and Shellharbour regions.
WHAT ARE THE NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS?
From 4pm Wednesday for one week:
Visitors to households will be limited to 5 guests – including children;
Masks will be compulsory in all indoor non-residential settings, including workplaces, and at organised outdoor events;
Drinking while standing at indoor venues will not be allowed;
Singing by audiences at indoor shows or by congregants at indoor places of worship will not be allowed;
Dancing will not be allowed at indoor hospitality venues or nightclubs however, dancing is allowed at weddings for the bridal party only (no more than 20 people);
Dance and gym classes limited to 20 per class (masks must be worn);
The one person per four square metre rule will be re-introduced for all indoor and outdoor settings, including weddings and funerals;
Outdoor seated events will be limited to 50% seated capacity;
Previous public transport capacity limits, represented by green dots, will be reintroduced
Ms Berejiklian said the growth of ‘unlinked cases’ in the state meant she needed to take proportionate action to stop the highly-contagious Delta variant from spreading.
‘If you live or work in any of those impacted LGAs we don’t want you moving outside of metropolitan Sydney other than for one of four essential purposes,’ she said.
‘Unless you are visiting a relative in care or have to go to work you should not be going outside the city for the next week.’
WHAT IS METROPOLITAN SYDNEY?
Metropolitan Sydney includes:
She clarified the boundaries of metropolitan Sydney were the city itself, the Blue Mountains, Shellharbour, the Central Coast and Wollongong.
The one person per four square metre rule will also come back into force.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said it is believed about 30 people attended the party in West Hoxton.
She said 10 cases were now linked to the western Sydney gathering and that the Delta strain had accelerated transmission of the virus at the event.
‘There are two cases on day two after the exposure,’ she said. ‘Those test results indicate how rapidly the virus was transmitted.’
Queensland slammed its borders shut to people travelling from Sydney’s hotspots on Wednesday morning after the coronavirus outbreak in Bondi Junction skyrocketed to 21 cases on Tuesday.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed on Wednesday morning anyone who had been in the seven Sydney councils designated by both state governments as high-risk will be forced to enter hotel quarantine from 1am Thursday.
‘We cannot afford to have this Delta variant out in the community,’ Ms Palaszczuk said as the state recorded another case transmitted in hotel quarantine.
Health workers are pictured at the Bondi Beach Drive-through Covid-19 clinic in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on Wednesday. Contact tracers are scrambling to trace four cases with no known source
‘We have serious concerns. We will be easing restrictions across Queensland this weekend but we cannot have the Delta variant out in our community.
She said Queensland will be following Victoria’s lead overnight by banning anyone entering from the seven-exposed areas.
‘We’re focusing on those council areas at the moment but this advice could change, that’s dependent on what we see in the next few days.’
There were no community transmissions of the virus recorded in Queensland overnight.
Fears the Bondi Covid cluster has spread 60km away as a childcare centre in Sydney’s south-west is forced to close after a positive case spent a day there
Health officials fear the Bondi Covid cluster has spread 60km south after a childcare centre was forced to close following a visit from a positive case.
Little Zak’s Academy at Narellan Vale, in Sydney’s southwest, revealed late on Tuesday that a young girl with the virus visited the centre.
‘It has come to our attention from the NSW Health Department and Liverpool Health that we have a confirmed Covid-19 case from one of our children in our centre that attended yesterday (Monday),’ the centre said in an email sent to parents.
The infected girl was in room ‘2-3’ between 9am and 5.15pm.
‘The girl and her family are doing well and resting at home,’ the centre said.
‘By 6pm the centre was closed and our Covid action plan was put in place.
‘All staff were personally called and notified within 60 minutes of that happening and all parents were notified within 90 minutes of that happening.’
Little Zak’s Academy at Narellan Vale, in Sydney’s southwest, revealed late on Tuesday that someone with the virus visited the centre
The childcare centre is currently closed while it undergoes a deep clean.
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said the extreme risk of the Delta variant has forced the state to immediately introduce the measures. The state recorded one new case of the variant overnight.
‘The risk is so much higher now than it was only a year ago,’ she said.
Anyone currently in Queensland who had visited any of the seven suburbs after June 12 must immediately seek a test and isolate.
More than 15,000 vaccines were administered on Tuesday in Queensland.
Queensland has slammed its borders shut to Sydney hotspots after the coronavirus outbreak in Bondi Junction skyrocketed to 21 cases on Tuesday
Anyone entering Queensland who had been in the seven Sydney councils designated as high-risk will be forced to enter hotel quarantine from 1am Wednesday. Pictured is a commuter on a bus in Bondi on Monday