‘Frankly crazy’: Sydney restrictions slammed as lockdown calls mount

·Associate News Editor
·3-min read

As often reminded by the nation's chief health officers, a lot can change in 24 hours amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

For NSW, despite local cases nearly doubling to 21 on Tuesday, Dr Kerry Chant said she had a level of confidence in the Bondi cluster due to a lack of unlinked cases and their geographical location.

But just a day later, community cases ballooned by 16 and worryingly a further 5 unlinked cases emerged.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian was forced to defend her latest round of tightened restrictions, insisting they were proportionate and sufficient to tackle the developing threat posed by the highly-infectious Delta variant fuelling the outbreak.

However she did not refuse to rule out a lockdown if the situation worsened.

"We will not hesitate to go further and harder if we have to," she told reporters.

Two women wear face masks in Sydney during the coronavirus pandemic.
Epidemiologists are calling for the NSW government to implement tighter restrictions in Sydney. Source: Getty Images

“I really want the public to be prepared and to know that this is an evolving situation,” she later added at Question Time.

A 'superspreader' birthday party, where so far 10 of 30 attendees have tested positive after contact with an asymptomatic case, highlighted the threat at hand.

Speculation is mounting health authorities are thrashing out a lockdown plan to be implemented later in the week, however Health Minister Brad Hazzard denied that was the case and criticised the media for "drawing their own conclusions".

"I don't believe that we will go into a lockdown. I've made that point," he told ABC Breakfast on Thursday.

"The health advice is that the new orders that came into play yesterday afternoon are proportionate to our risk."

However in recent days UNSW epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, a World Health Organisation adviser, has in recent days suggested a brief stay-at-home order was needed to get on top of the outbreak.

Fellow epidemiologist and colleague at UNSW, Dr Abrar Chughtai, described the Delta variant as "really, really nasty".

"So if cases of transmission are high, you need a hard lockdown," he told the ABC.

While NSW's contact tracers have routinely been praised as the gold standard by the federal government, with more than 100 exposure sites, Dr Chughtai predicted tracing would now be "a nightmare".

University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely said he believed a lockdown was needed and warned the longer the state government waits, the harder and longer restrictions would be.

He told ABC Breakfast the decision to keep gyms open was "frankly crazy".

Epidemiologist warns NSW to 'react quickly'

Physician and the ABC's medical expert Dr Norman Swan warned the outbreak is becoming "uncomfortably large" during an appearance on Network Ten's The Project and suggested health authorities could regret not going harder earlier.

He said it was likely the state would see another double-digit rise in local cases on Thursday.

Late on Wednesday, University of Western Australia epidemiologist Dr Zoë Hyde offered advice to the NSW government by tweeting 2020 remarks from World Health Organisation Executive Covid team leader Dr Mike Ryan.

"You need to react quickly, you need to go after the virus, you need to stop the chains of transmission... be fast, have no regrets; you must be the first mover. The virus will always get you if you don't move quickly," he previously warned.

Her tweet echoes the remarks made by her state's premier, Mark McGowan, who has called on the NSW government to enact tougher restrictions to quash the outbreak.

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