NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has hinted at a possible Sydney lockdown, saying health advice “could change” ahead of crisis talks this morning. NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has hinted at a possible Sydney lockdown, saying health advice “could change in the next few hours”. The state government is holding crisis talks at 9.30am to assess whether the restrictions to contain the outbreak are enough.
Mr. Barilaro said the lockdown wasn’t required based on the current advice.
“We look at the numbers, 11 cases doesn’t sound alarming but all bar one is a mystery case,” he told Nine’s Today. “It is not just the numbers, it is the detail, the information we have behind the scenes that our expert health officials look at that gives us the confidence to make the decision and the advice at this stage is not to lock down. At this stage I don’t think we need a lockdown. But that advice could change in the next few hours, and it could change over the weekend.”
Public health experts are divided on whether Sydney needs to impose a “short, sharp” lockdown.Some have warned Sydneysiders are “sitting ducks” as the Delta variant spreads, but others argue the number of “mystery cases” does not yet warrant such drastic action.
The NSW government has been criticized for resisting calls to lock down the city despite another rise in cases on Thursday, bringing the latest outbreak to 48.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was the “perhaps the scariest period” that the state had faced since the start of the pandemic due to the new Delta variant – but insisted that the strict restrictions announced on Wednesday were the “appropriate settings”. Asked whether NSW would consider a three-day lockdown, chief health officer Kerry Chant said that would not be “long enough”.
“Three-day lockdowns don’t work if you’ve got distributed disease,” she said.
Dr Chant said a three-day lockdown was used in situations “where you have a sudden surge of cases and you want everybody to stay in the same place, and that allows you to get any backlog of any contact tracing”.
“We are not in that situation where we are not getting to people in terms of the contact tracing,” she said.
‘We are sitting ducks’
Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the Biosecurity Research Program at UNSW’s Kirby Institute, wrote in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald last night that Sydney was “on a knife-edge of a Delta epidemic”.
“We are sitting ducks, with a largely unvaccinated or partially vaccinated population,” Prof MacIntyre said.
“Lockdowns are a last resort but, like mask mandates, are most effective when used early. The purpose is to reduce contact between people (and therefore to reduce the opportunity for growth of the epidemic).” Prof MacIntyre argued that “waiting until the situation is out of control will require a much longer and more costly lockdown”, and claimed “multiple studies have now shown that lockdowns actually protect the economy compared with out-of-control epidemics”. “Countries like Australia and New Zealand, which used stringent measures, fared better economically than most of Europe or the US in 2020,” she wrote. “If case numbers keep rising, a short, sharp lockdown combined with school holidays might be just the circuit breaker we need to ensure this outbreak does not escalate.”