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‘Smarter than me’: Fitzgibbon aims subtle dig at Gladys, as AMA warns Delta variant is a ‘different beast’

An outspoken MP has taken aim at NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian over the state’s response to the worsening Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney.

Joel Fitzgibbon has aimed a subtle dig at Gladys Berejiklian, claiming “smarter people than me” had called for a lockdown to be imposed sooner, but a top medical expert has warned NSW is “dealing with a different beast”.

Ms Berejiklian on Saturday plunged NSW into a two-week lockdown as the state grappled an escalating Covid-19 outbreak, recording 30 new cases on Sunday.

But the NSW Premier has been criticised for being too slow to act, after the lockdown was imposed only after the highly contagious Delta strain spread across Sydney and into the regions.

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon accepted the state government had followed medical advice but aimed a subtle barb at Ms Berejiklian over the delay.

“Smarter people than me have said that she should have gone into a short lockdown earlier. We’ll wait and see whether those views are vindicated,” he told Sunrise.

But Australian Medical Association (AMA) vice president Chris Moy said while an earlier lockdown may have been preferable in hindsight, NSW was “dealing with a different beast” in the Delta variant and warned against politicising its response.

“Everybody just wants to say: we told you so, Gladys,” he told NCA NewsWire.

“But there’s no point at this moment in time looking back at that, because I think the thing to do is to learn the lesson.”

Parts of the NT have plunged into lockdown, WA has toughened its border stances, and the ACT has imposed a mask mandate despite no active cases.

Dr Moy warned the Delta variant’s short incubation period meant contact tracers would struggle to keep pace with it, and that states could continue to pre-emptively impose restrictions to “get out ahead” of it.

“We’re dealing with a different beast … By the time they’ve caught one, the next one’s already been out there infectious and passing it on,” he said.

“This is why you’re going to see all the other states go much harder than you might think, even though they may not appear to have cases at the moment.”

Ms Berejiklian has previously criticised premiers over snap responses to Covid-19 outbreaks, and last month insisted NSW would avoid plunging back into lockdown.

Federal Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland took direct aim at Ms Berejiklian, saying Sydneysiders were “bearing the consequences” of her political decisions.

“This government, both at a federal and state level, has been highly critical of other states who have gone into lockdown,” she told Sky News on Monday.

“Only a few days ago, Scott Morrison was applauding the NSW Premier for resisting going into lockdown. I accept that decisions are made on the best health advice, but decisions are made here by politicians as well, and we Sydneysiders are bearing the consequences of that.”

Ms Berejiklian has been reticent to impose lockdowns over their economic impact, and the federal government has championed her state’s government as the “gold standard” in dealing with the virus.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg insisted the NSW Premier’s handling of the crisis, including the Northern Beaches outbreak over Christmas, had been exemplary.

“Gladys Berejiklian has followed the medical advice and she has performed extremely well through this crisis and indeed in facing this latest challenge,” he told Sky News on Monday.

“They’ve been able to get on top of outbreaks when they’ve occurred without having had to put the whole state into lockdown.”

Ms Berejiklian has been critical of the federal government over vaccine supply, and Labor has argued the latest round of lockdowns would not have been necessary had the national rollout met initial expectations.

“The simple truth here is if more Australians were vaccinated, and if we’d actually got hotel quarantine right, we could’ve avoided some of this,” frontbencher Tanya Plibersek told Today on Monday.

“We need purpose-built quarantine facilities and we need to be making vaccines here in Australia. People are willing to take them. The states are willing to help. We’ve got a shortage of supply.”

Mr Frydenberg conceded damaging medical advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine had dented the government’s plans, but insisted the vaccine was being rolled out “as quickly as possible”.

“We’re not out of this pandemic yet and indeed it still got a long way to go. We’re going to have to learn to live with the virus because, as we’ve seen from the international experiences, it still poses a significant threat,” he said.

He warned vaccines were no silver bullet in combating new strains, after the UK recorded 18,000 cases on Saturday despite over 80 per cent of its population having received their first dose.

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