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2GB’s Ben Fordham calls for Gladys Berejiklian to end Sydney lockdown

Talkback radio callers have unloaded on Gladys Berejiklian over the lockdown extension, with host Ben Fordham saying the community is at “breaking point”.

2GB host Ben Fordham has slammed Premier Gladys Berejiklian over the lockdown extension, saying the NSW community and businesses are at “breaking point”.

“People are at breaking point, businesses are at breaking point,” he said.

“And now the health advice – aren’t we sick of hearing about the health advice? The health advice insists on another week of lockdown. There are small businesses everywhere on their knees, they cannot deal with this again, but they’re being forced to.”

The talkback radio presenter said his call-in lines and text messages were “off the charts” with “white-hot rage” this morning from residents furious at reports Ms Berejiklian will extend the state’s Covid-19 lockdown by another week until Friday, July 16.

“This is just getting ridiculous now,” caller Michael told the program. “About 1500 people a year die of the flu. Did we shut the bloody city down?”

Caller Scott said the “difference between this lockdown and the last lockdown” was that last time “we all believed the government had a plan”.

“There’s six million people locked in their homes, nobody knows how they’re going to pay the rent, and ScoMo’s posting pictures of a curry he’s made,” Scott said.

“People are OK with being locked down if they know there’s a plan, but the plan (announced) last week (by Prime Minister Scott Morrison) was like Yes Minister. It doesn’t seem like there’s any urgency, anyone running the show who knows what they’re doing, no accountability.”

Caller Chris said he was “upset”. “(To) the people in power – and that’s all it’s about – look after the vulnerable, look after the elderly and leave the rest of us alone,” he said.

“Open Sydney, look after the elderly, look after the vulnerable. That’s it.”

Deborah said she was “absolutely ropeable” at being “drip-fed” information by the media before the Premier’s announcement at 11am.

She suggested Ms Berejiklian wanted to gauge the public reaction so she knew how to present herself at the press conference.

“I can assure you it (will be) extreme anger (from) us who pay your wages and vote you into these positions,” she said.

City of Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas told the program she was “getting calls every day from business owners, particularly in the CBD, who are telling me they’re ready to end their lives because they can’t find a way out of this”.

“Their debt has increased between $100,000 to $300,000 in the last 18 months and they will never crawl out from under this ridiculous approach to the pandemic,” she said.

“I don’t know what to do either. How do I tell someone don’t commit suicide and end your life when there is nothing for them and their families to look forward to? This is the situation.”

Earlier, Fordham outlined the economic devastation being caused by the lockdowns.

“Last month, 179 NSW businesses closed their doors for good,” he said.

“Since the start of the pandemic 1000 have shut up shop. Every day we’re in lockdown we lose $140 million. The knock-on effect is enormous. There are 60,000 NSW mortgages at extreme risk. People can’t cope, people aren’t coping, and I don’t think they are being considered enough when we continue these restrictions.”

Fordham shared several “heartbreaking stories” about businesses on the edge.

“There’s a retailer at a big Sydney Westfield,” he said.

His rent is $30,000 a month. In lockdown he’s still allowed to be open but there’s an 80 per cent reduction in foot traffic and Westfield won’t give him a rent reduction. He wants to close but he’s got a dozen full-time staff that rely on their wage. He’s got a wife and three kids, he says he’s barely hanging on.”

He said another example was a leading function centre in Sydney.

When lockdowns hit, they had to refund, imagine this, $980,000 – almost $1 million that they’ll never see again,” he said.

They can’t tell people when to rebook because we don’t know how long this is going to last. We were told the lockdown was going to be two weeks, we’re going to be told today that it’s going to be going longer. So how do people plan their lives? The business community and the whole community is desperate for some confidence and we’re not getting it today.”

Fordham said a retailer at a Sydney university had seen sales drop from $500,000 a month to $50,000.

“The uni is refusing to budge on his lease, they’re demanding he pay $60,000 this month or forget about it, you’re out,” he said.

The businesses are in limbo. They don’t have to shut but what’s the point of staying open? A number of these business owners have met with NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and they’re desperate for more support.”

The NSW government has a small business grant of up to $10,000 but callers told the program they either did not reach the required $75,000 turnover, or that the $10,000 barely made a dent in monthly expenses such as rent.

Fordham urged NSW to follow the lead of Singapore and treat Covid-19 like any other endemic illness.

We can’t lock down again,” he said.

Can I remind the Premier you said a few months ago we had to learn to live with the virus? You said NSW should remain open to give business confidence. So what’s changed?”

He said NSW had 18 months to “prepare and prepare our hospitals”.

“We have had all the time in the world to put safeguards in place,” he said. “This must be our final lockdown.”

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