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Experts call for 'urgent' tightening of Greater Sydney lockdown

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for a more uniform lockdown in Sydney, as Covid cases remain in triple digits.

People in Sydney are facing a "very significant risk" of catching Covid-19, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said in a press release.

On Friday, NSW reported 170 cases, taking the total number of cases since the outbreak started in June this year to 2,980.

In light of this, Dr Khorshid has called for tighter measures to be used across all of Sydney and not just the local government areas in western and southwest Sydney, to tame the Delta strain.

A health worker takes a swab sample from a resident at a Covid-19 drive-through testing clinic in Sydney on July 28, 2021.
The AMA has called for tighter restrictions for all of Sydney amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Source: Getty Images

“Lockdown should mean lockdown across the whole Sydney region," he said.

"Covid-19 does not respect geography or local government boundaries on a map, and clear and simple rules applied everywhere will make a difference — including mandatory mask wearing indoors and outdoors, when outside the home."

Residents in the Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Blacktown, Cumberland, Parramatta, Campbelltown and Georges River areas are facing tougher restrictions compared to the rest of Sydney.

In those areas, residents must only travel 5km from their homes for shopping and exercise and wear a mask whenever they are outdoors.

Dr Khorshid says these rules should be consistent across Greater Sydney, not just the eight local government areas.

"Now is not the time for mixed messaging, appealing to common sense or finding a balance between economic and health advice," he said.

"Now is the time for ALL of Sydney to work together under simple, understandable restrictions that apply evenly to all, with the aim of achieving what Melbourne was able to achieve last year — to eliminate Covid-19.”

Digital warning sign at Bicentennial Park in the suburb of Homebush on July 29, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.
Sydney remains in lockdown, while eight local government areas have been hit with tighter restrictions. Source: Getty Images

Sydney lockdown restrictions 'not working'

AMA (NSW) President Dr Danielle McMullen said the lockdown restrictions which are in place now are not working.

“The piecemeal approach being taken by the NSW Government is not working and there needs to be an urgent tightening of restrictions, with clear, consistent messaging,” she said.

Dr McMullen said the government needs to look at the retail businesses and non-essential industries which remain open, and tighten restrictions there.

“Two weeks ago, the AMA called on the NSW Government to properly lockdown the Greater Sydney area," she said.

"However, its desire to avoid the blanket lockdown needed has meant infections continue to rise and Sydneysiders face a set of confusing and unclear rules based on geography."

'Months' of lockdown or 'enormous' human toll

Given the situation in NSW, Dr Khoshid said the daily case numbers need to start dropping in the coming days or the state will have to live with the Delta strain for the foreseeable future.

Living with Delta means lockdowns and restrictions, which take a toll on the community's health and wellbeing and Australia's economy.

"We know how difficult this is for the Sydney community, but the alternative is months of lockdown or having to face the enormous human toll inflicted by this terrible virus in other parts of the world," he said.

However, we know that small changes to restrictions can make a significant difference if they are made before it is too late.”

NSW recorded 170 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, many of which were in the community. Source: Getty Images
NSW recorded 170 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, many of which were in the community. Source: Getty Images

He admitted no one knows whether Sydney will be able to eliminate the Delta strain, but believes the benefits of doing so are well worth the inconvenience and disruption everyone in the state is currently facing.

Dr McMullen reiterated the importance of getting vaccinated and taking advantage of the significant supply of AstraZeneca.

"Even one dose of AstraZeneca can cut the risks of hospitalisation from Covid-19 by 70 per cent and halve the risks of passing the virus to someone else,” she said.

Calls to reverse decision to send Year 12 back to school

Both Dr McMullen and Dr Khorshid called for the NSW government to reverse its decision to send Year 12 students back to school next month.

“While we recognise this is a stressful time for Year 12 students, this will expose students, teachers and families to increased risks of infection and transmission," Dr McMullen said.

We call on the NSW Government to reverse this decision. Making that decision now will provide greater certainty than a sudden reversal in two weeks’ time.”

Pfizer doses designated for regional areas of NSW being redirected for returning Year 12 students also has the AMA "very concerned".

“Regional communities have had limited access to the Pfizer vaccine and many people in vulnerable and high priority groups remain unvaccinated across regional Australia," Dr Khorshid said.

"Year 12 students should remain safe at home with their families until Sydney gets on top of this outbreak.

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