NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has given a robust response to questions on whether her state’s coronavirus response has been strict enough.
Her barbed comments come after she was accused of being out of step with the rest of Australia by Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan, whose government is working to achieve eradication of the virus.
Ms Berejiklian reiterated on Tuesday she was committed to eliminating transmission within the community but said it was near impossible to wipe out the virus completely due to the number of infected Australians being welcomed back into the country.
She suggested state leaders who believe eradication is possible were naive.
“Anyone who thinks we're going to eliminate or eradicate this disease unfortunately doesn't appreciate what the pandemic means,’ she told reporters.
Ms Berejiklian said NSW’s restrictions were designed to consider the needs of the state’s people, finding a balance between public safety and economic and social prosperity.
“We do it in a way which doesn't overburden our citizens every single day,” she said.
Mr McGowan has become renowned for his strict border policy, with the premier refusing to open or immediately closing its border at the hint of an outbreak interstate.
“I don’t believe keeping your borders closed and inflicting pain and suffering on thousands of people is the way to go,” Ms Berejiklian added.
The federal government has repeatedly stressed it is pursuing a suppression strategy, a move which Ms Berejiklian called “logical”.
“But to suggest we can somehow eliminate this... it’s not realistic.”
Her comments came hours after infectious disease expert Professor Peter Collignon from the Australian National University told ABC News Breakfast it was highly unlikely the virus would be wiped out completely from Australia.
“The reality is we will continue, unfortunately, to have leaks,” he said, pointing to the reemergence of the virus in NSW, South Australia and Queensland in recent weeks from hotel quarantine.
He questioned the need for Queensland’s three-day lockdown in Greater Brisbane and urged for greater trust to be placed in contact tracers like NSW had.
He noted NSW had like other states eliminated the virus for several weeks before its latest emergence.
Prior to South Australia’s hotel quarantine leak in November, Curtin University epidemiologist Archie Clements told Yahoo News Australia hotel quarantine would repeatedly be Australia’s downfall until a vaccine provided herd immunity.
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