As Sydney battles a growing Covid outbreak, lockdown-happy politicians and health officials have whipped themselves up into a frenzy slamming borders shut to millions of Sydneysiders.
Ten new coronavirus cases were announced on Tuesday, bringing the city’s growing Bondi cluster to 21 active infections.
Only one case remains a mystery – a child from Saint Charles’ Primary School in Waverley, Sydney’s east – but dozens of new exposure sites were added to the lengthy list on Tuesday evening.
Gladys Berejiklian has warned that the concerning mystery case may prompt her to bring in tighter restrictions or even a lockdown, adding to the existing mandatory mask order.
Among the new sites were two international flights between Sydney and Wellington after a traveller unknowingly infected with Covid visited New Zealand for the weekend, prompting Jacinda Ardern to slam shut the border with NSW.
In a move likely to cause school holiday chaos for many families, Victoria also shut its border with Sydney late on Tuesday night, declaring seven suburbs ‘red zones’.
Despite the influx of cases derived from the Delta variant – with one person testing positive after brushing past an infected member of the community momentarily – Ms Berejiklian has so far stood firm in not locking Sydney down.
Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Tuesday) has always supported the need to balance public health with people’s wellbeing and jobs – meaning she has successfully avoided many lockdowns without seeing cases spiral. But she has hinted this time she may have no choice
One case concerning health officials is that of a young boy in Waverley who tested positive with no known links to the Bondi cluster (pictured, parents wait to collect children at St Charles’ Primary School on Tuesday, where the child is a pupil)
On Tuesday, she said health authorities are confident they can find out where the school student contracted Covid-19 and there is only a small risk that the number of cases will spiral out of control.
But when asked about a potential lockdown, she said the idea was not out of the question if mystery cases grow, with Sydney having experienced two lockdowns in the past.
‘If that changes, if we suddenly have a number of unlinked cases and if we suddenly have them outside the geographic region they are concentrated in that we will obviously adjust the health advice and we will respond to that (idea of a lockdown),’ she said.
The premier has faced criticism by her interstate counterparts who believe lockdown is the only way to curtail the virus, but she has managed to keep NSW from spiralling into a pit of disease without forcing millions to stay at home.
Lockdowns shed millions from the economy, with Victoria’s snap lockdown in February this year costing $1billion in just five days.
By comparison, Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino locked his state down for three weeks last month based on just two infections.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews – who has been on sick leave for months after he slipped on stairs and fractured his spine – holds the record for the longest lockdown in Australia at nearly four months last year, and it still couldn’t keep the virus out of the state.
Lockdown restrictions are looming for Sydney, with masks already mandatory on public transport and in indoor settings such as shops (pictured, a commuter in the city)
An empty Manly Wharf on December 21, as the number of cases grew in the Northern Beaches with the cluster eventually reaching 150 – but NSW still wasn’t locked down and recovered well
NEW EXPOSURE SITES IN SYDNEY
Call NSW Health immediately, get tested and isolate regardless of the result:
QF163 (Qantas) – June 18 from Sydney to Wellington, NZ
NZ247 (Air New Zealand) – June 21 from Wellington, NZ to Sydney
Bondi: Totti’s Bondi – Saturday June 19, 5pm – 6.30pm
Mascot: Wallabies Thai Restaurant – Saturday June 19, 11.30am – 12pm (anyone who dined outside)
Bondi Junction: Chanel fragrance and beauty – Friday June 18, 12pm – 12.25pm
Sydney: ANZ Martin Place – Thursday June 17, 11.45am – 3.15pm (anyone on level 2)
Get tested and isolate until a negative test is received:
Bondi: The Royal Bondi – Saturday June 19, 5pm – 6.30pm
Spring Farm: Woolworths – Sunday June 20, 9.30am – 10am
Mascot: Wallabies Thai Restaurant – Saturday June 19, 11.30am – 12pm (anyone who dined inside)
Bondi Junction: Starbucks – Friday June 18, 11am – 12pm
Sydney: ANZ Martin Place – Thursday June 17, 11.45am – 3.15pm (anyone on ground and level 1)
Mascot Central Shopping Precinct – Anytime between Friday June 18 and Tuesday June 22
Victoria has endured four lockdowns, but the state has still struggled to contain Covid since the start of the pandemic with a grand total of 20,600 cases – five times more than NSW.
On Tuesday, the state slammed its border shut to millions living in Sydney starting at 1am on Wednesday – giving just a few hours notice.
The state has branded the City of Sydney and six other suburbs ‘red zones’, meaning travel across the border is banned.
Those who have been to one of the ‘red zones’ and live in Victoria must self-isolate immediately for 14 days.
The suburbs are the City of Sydney, Waverley, Woollahra, Bayside, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick.
Queensland leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has also shown herself to be a fan of lockdowns, and has also moved to ban anyone from Sydney’s Waverley from entering her state.
In March, she ordered a three-day lockdown in Brisbane based on just seven cases.
Ms Berejiklian has said on numerous occasions that she does not believe lockdown is always necessary and has flatly refused to bow down to pressure, opting instead to keep the community’s mental health and economic needs front and centre.
When fending off comments from other premiers urging her to lock Sydneysiders inside during the Northern Beaches cluster over Christmas and New Year, she said community health safety was paramount – including job security and mental health.
‘Our first and foremost priority is always community safety,’ Ms Berejiklian said in December.
‘But at the same time we also have a keen eye on mental health, on making sure we will preserve as many jobs as possible and livelihoods as possible and that we bring the community with us.’
The Northern Beaches cluster swelled to 38 cases before the premier ordered a lockdown, but only for people living north of the Narrabeen Bridge, with the rest of the state free to enjoy their Christmas break.
New Zealand has paused its travel bubble with NSW in light of the latest Covid outbreak (pictured, an empty Sydney Airport)
When fending off comments from other premiers urging her to lock Sydneysiders inside during the Northern Beaches cluster over Christmas and New Year, Gladys Berejiklian said community health safety was paramount – including job security and mental health (pictured, a deserted Manly Wharf during the lockdown on December 21)
VICTORIA’S NEW RESTRICTIONS ON SYDNEY
The state’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, has declared the following NSW Local Government Areas (LGAs) as red zones under Victoria’s travel permit system, effective at 1:00am 23 June:
– City of Sydney, Waverley, Woollahra, Bayside, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick
Under the Andrews government’s traffic light system, any Victorian resident who has been in an area declared a red zone must obtain a permit to re-enter the state and will be required to undergo 14 days of home quarantine.
Non Victorian residents coming from a red zone are banned all together – but some exceptions can be made if a person has only transited through a red zone.
Anyone who enters Victoria without a permit ‘will be sent back,’ health officials warned.
If anyone from a red zone tries to enter Victoria without a permit, they will be fined and be forced into hotel quarantine until return transport is arranged.
Wollongong, south of Sydney, has been declared an orange zone, meaning travellers who have been there in the past 14 days must obtain a permit prior to taking off, isolate on arrival, get tested, and stay isolated until they get a negative result.
Those living south of Narrabeen Bridge were freed from lockdown a week earlier than their northern neighbours.
The cluster peaked at 150 cases before numbers finally started to shrink – with no need to lockdown entire cities or the state to achieve this.
When Ms Berejiklian was questioned about whether lifting the lockdown was the right decision, she maintained that she was confident given the large number of Northern Beaches residents who were tested.
The number of cases fell to zero, and all Sydneysiders were free to enjoy the rest of summer.
The first and only time Ms Berejiklian locked the entire of her state down, hundreds of infected holidaymakers were unknowingly spreading the virus after alighting the doomed Ruby Princess cruise ship.
Masks are now mandatory both on public transport and in indoor settings across Greater Sydney (pictured, masked commuters on a train leaving Wynyard Station)
On March 19, 2020, more than 2,700 guests were allowed to disembark without adequate health checks.
The following day, Australia’s international borders were closed and every state and territory soon brought in lockdown rules amid a spiralling number of cases of the then-new virus.
In total, there were 28 deaths, including 20 in Australia and eight in the United States, among 900 cases who were believed to have caught the virus onboard.
Another fear adding to anxiety in Sydney this week was the announcement on Tuesday that Covid fragments were found in sewage from 15 suburbs where 22,500 Sydneysiders live.
Routine wastewater testing discovered Covid-19 particles at the Lough Park Sewage Network Investigation Site, in the city’s eastern suburbs.
The catchment area includes Clovelly, Waverley, Randwick, Centennial Park, Queens Park, Bondi, Bondi Junction, Bellevue Hill, Double Bay and Woolhara.
A ‘Thank You Illawarra’ banner hangs from the stern of the Ruby Princess as she departs Port Kembla on April 23 when the Covid infected ship that started Australia’s pandemic nightmare finally left Australian waters
Only one case remains a mystery – a child from Saint Charles’ Primary School in Waverley, Sydney’s east – but dozens of new exposure sites were added to the lengthy list on Tuesday evening (pictured, testing in Bondi on Tuesday)
Traces of the virus were also found in the Brooklyn Sewage Treatment Plant, which collects wastewater from Dangar Island, Cowan, Brooklyn, Mooney Mooney and Cheerio Point, north of Sydney.
On Tuesday evening it was revealed that an infected Australian hopped on flight QF163 from Sydney to Wellington which arrived at 12.12am on June 18.
They returned to Sydney on Air New Zealand flight NZ247 at 10.13am on June 21 – just a day before the nation’s leader Ms Ardern slammed its borders shut to NSW amid the outbreak of coronavirus in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Kiwis were given just three hours to get back home before restrictions come into place.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins put the breaks on hotel quarantine-free travel, saying the decision was made because there are still ‘several unknowns’ about the growing outbreak.
The ‘pause’ in the travel is set to be reviewed in three days.
New Zealand have pulled up the draw bridge to Western Australia and Victoria on one occasion and slammed the door shut on NSW twice since the trans-Tasman travel bubble came into effect on April 19. Pictured: Departure passengers to New Zealand wait to check in at Sydney International Airport, Sydney, Monday, April 19