While NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian moved to reassure Sydney's five million residents the aim is to exit lockdown come July 16, a growing number of experts are offering up a dose of reality over the daunting situation posed by the highly-infectious Covid-19 Delta variant.
While Ms Berejiklian categorically ruled out living with the Delta variant, a move the Sydney Morning Herald revealed had been brought to the table by three senior ministers, there is growing concern the state government's restrictions are simply not enough to contain the virus.
On Thursday, NSW recorded 38 locally acquired cases – the largest daily spike since Sydney's outbreak began on June 16.
Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, head of the University of Melbourne's School of Population and Global Health, said it was unlikely Sydney and surrounding areas would exit lockdown at the end of the three weeks.
"It's hard for me to believe they're going to dig themselves out of this in one [additional week which was added to the existing two-week lockdown]," she told Patricia Karvelas on the ABC's Afternoon Briefing.
Pointing to Melbourne's extensive lockdown in 2020, she said Victorians were subject to far more stringent measures than what is currently being enforced on Sydneysiders.
"We know that it is certainly not as strict a lockdown as you can have. We have lived in much stricter lockdowns for longer periods of time."
Dr Baxter suggested it was time for the NSW government to provide a set of black and white rules which it so far has been reluctant to do, instead opting to place the judgement in the hands of the community.
"What is the role of government other than to define in a pandemic what an essential workplace is?" she questioned.
Dr Baxter said she envisaged the lockdown ending no earlier than July 23 and it was vital to bring the number of cases infectious in the community down to zero for most days.
Living with the virus not an option, AMA president says
The Australian Medical Association President Dr Omar Khorshid agreed it was not a question that NSW needed to suppress and eradicate the Delta variant in the community, but to do so would require a ramping up of restrictions.
"It will involve the government putting in very difficult measures if that's what they need to do, in order to eliminate the virus," he told reporters.
"We can't live with this virus. New South Wales certainly can't live in lockdown until we're fully vaccinated so if that means turning up the restrictions that's exactly what they should do."
He warned the state government was at "a crossroads" and it was vital Ms Berejiklian heeded repeated warnings over the threat posed by the Delta variant.
"Get it wrong and we are at looking at a very different Australia until there's vaccination," Dr Khorshid said.
On Thursday, NSW Police announced it would be ramping up patrols in the streets of southwest Sydney in search of people not compliant with the public health order. Yet questions marks surround such a move, particularly when Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said breaches were occurring behind closed doors.
But Dr Baxter also warned the connotations of such a move, suggesting residents are guilty of breaching the rules. She said it's more likely those residents are acquiring the virus by going to work in settings such as retail, with the rules surrounding what can and can't say open ambiguous.
On Wednesday, Ms Berejiklian said she could not rule out further restrictions for just the Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown local government areas.
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