Sydney facing harsher Covid restrictions – here's what it could look like

·4-min read

Harsher Covid lockdown restrictions may be imposed on Sydneysiders as soon as Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has hinted.

While announcing 172 new local virus cases on Tuesday — the highest yet during the Delta outbreak — Ms Berejiklian said the state government is trying to figure out what “life beyond July 31” looks like.

She has previously told residents that it is unlikely Sydney’s five-week lockdown will end at the end of the month as planned, but it remains to be seen if harsher restrictions, like those seen in Victoria, will be imposed.

"Some settings might change. We might need to go harder in some areas and release some settings in others," Ms Berejiklian warned on Monday.

People exercises in Hyde Park in the central business district in Sydney Sydney, Monday, July 26, 2021. Source: AAP
NSW announced 172 new local virus cases on Tuesday — the highest yet during the Delta outbreak. Source: AAP

As of now for Greater Sydney, NSW enforces mask wearing indoors and on public transport, travel is permitted up to 10km for exercise and shopping for essentials, there is no time limit for exercise or curfew, cafes and restaurants are takeaway only, and work from home is advised.

However, tighter restrictions have been imposed on five council areas — Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Liverpool — in the city’s southwest.

All non-essential retail has been closed and residents who work outside their area are not allowed to leave and must work from home unless they’re an authorised worker. Those who do have to leave the area must be tested for Covid every three days.

So what would a harsher lockdown look like for NSW, and is it necessary?

Professor of epidemiology, and World Health Organisation adviser, Mary-Louise McLaws says yes, and it would need to include four specific rules to help drive down growing cases.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian looks on during a press conference in  Sydney. Source: AAP
Harsher Covid lockdown restrictions may be imposed on Sydneysiders as soon as Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has hinted. Source: AAP

The four steps to a more effective lockdown

1. A strict curfew needs to be implemented to “remind people that the situation is serious” and “stop people from moving around under the cloak of darkness”, she told Yahoo News Australia.

“Curfews are very important and very useful when you have a very severe problem.

“It should have been used immediately, but what we are seeing this time is a slow build-up of restrictions rather than a rapid build-ups, and a slow resolve.”

2. Professor McLaws said masks should also be worn at all times, even when outside, because people are often coming within 1.5m of other people while exercising.

“Masks should be mandatory as soon as you leave the house,” she said.

Prof McLaws said she has seen people walking the streets for exercise, but “that sort of exercise shouldn’t preclude them from wearing a mask because they’re coming into contact with people on the footpath”.

“I’m very disappointed in the lack of mandatory mask use in every situation other than running or riding a bike on the road — every other moment it’s just too dangerous,” she said.

Cleaners in HAZMAT suits arrive at a locked downed apartment building on Devitt Street in the suburb of Blacktown in Sydney. Source: AAP
Cleaners in HAZMAT suits arrive at a locked downed apartment building in Blacktown. Source: AAP

3. Professor McLaws also argued that all activities except for essential work should be limited to a 5km radius.

4. Essential workers should also be tested for Covid every day using a rapid-antigen test, which provides results within minutes, she said.

Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday most cases are being spread through essential workers and household contacts.

“We need to learn to be more proactive rather than reactionary,” Professor McLaws said, adding that infections will be driven down faster only if harsher restrictions are enforced.

She said Victoria’s approach of imposing strict lockdowns is a result of their tough training through their second wave last year when cases reached 700 a day.

“They didn’t waste that lesson,” she said.

Victoria's tough Stage 4 restrictions included:

  • Masks in all public settings — indoors and outdoors

  • A travel radius of 5km

  • Exercise with one person for up to one hour

  • A curfew from 8pm to 5am

  • Cafes and restaurants offering take-away one (same as NSW), but food courts closed

  • Non-essential retail closed

  • Scaled back workplaces, with a strict list of business and industry

Harsher Covid restrictions may be 'highly unfair' 

Khal Asfour, mayor of Canterbury-Bankstown, told the ABC on Tuesday morning that stricter lockdown rules could be “highly unfair” to his community.

“What's important here is that we're all in this together, so to go and discriminate against our communities when we're the essential workers that are driving and servicing the rest of Sydney will be highly unfair and the community won't appreciate it at all,” he said.

“We want all of us to be in this together and make sure that we're all on the same page.

“I don't know how much tighter we could go, really. Curfews don't seem to work,” he said.

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