Sydney’s Current Limits on Lockdown Rules ‘Appropriate’: Hazzard

Australian Medical Association pushes to expand lockdown restrictions beyond hotspot LGAs
July 31, 2021 Updated: August 1, 2021

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard says the state’s authorities will keep its harsher lockdown measures limited to specific local government areas despite calls to expand certain rules for all of Sydney.

The Australian Medical Association President Dr. Omar Khorshid has called for travel limits within a five kilometre radius from home and outdoor mask wearing rules to be extended beyond eight local government areas.

“We’re trying to strike a balance and I think the balance is appropriate,” Hazzard told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

He said when Sydney locked down the northern beaches during an outbreak last year and the eastern suburbs during this outbreak, there was a “high level of compliance.” The lockdown in Sydney’s southwest had been more “challenging,” he said.

NSW recorded its 14th death in this current outbreak on Saturday, a man in his 60s who died at home in southwest Sydney.

When asked about his previous comments that Sydney families were turning up to hospitals with a COVID-19 infected relative who is “not alive but dead,” Hazzard said he would not go into the family’s “personal circumstances.”

“All I’ll say is that there was broad infection in the family and there was no effort to get to health authorities, as I understand it, until it was too late,” Hazzard said.

Hazzard said there was a reluctance for large “refugee family groups” where there are few income earners to come forward to health authorities.

“They’ve suffered greatly in their own nations, in their own countries,” he said. “What we are trying to do is tell them, if you have got any symptoms at all or have been in contact with positive cases, please come forward to health. Health is only there to look after you.”

The state recorded 239 new locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. on Saturday as the virus continues to spread in workplaces and households.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says “pleasingly” the cases were not outside the main eight Sydney local government areas of concern.

“We are again seeing the virus circulating in workplaces and in homes,” she said.

Of these, while 115 are linked to a known case or cluster—92 are household contacts and 23 are close contacts. The source of infection for 124 cases is under investigation. At least 35 were active in the community while infectious.

There are currently 222 COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital in NSW. Of these, 54 people are in intensive care, 25 of whom require ventilation.

The risk of COVID-positive patients coming into hospital and sending hundreds of health workers into isolation has led the state to suspend non-urgent elective surgery.

Hazzard said on Saturday a number of procedures will be dealt with by the private health system instead.

Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are in lockdown until at least Aug. 28, as health authorities battle to contain an outbreak of the virulent Delta strain.

Saturday marked the return to work for the construction sector after a fortnight-long enforced break, with work allowed to resume on non-occupied sites provided COVID-safe plans are in force.

But the sector cannot call on 68,000 workers—or 42 per cent of the workforce—from eight council areas worst-hit by the city’s coronavirus outbreak.

The state’s workplace safety regulator says construction sites should expect a visit to ensure they’re complying with public health orders.

By Gina Rushton