‘We need to quash it now’: Berejiklian confesses to COVID complacency in NSW

By Melissa Coade

Friday July 9, 2021

Gladys Berejiklian.
Berejiklian says she will be taking her case to the national cabinet. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The boot is on the other foot for Australia’s COVID-19 situation, with 11 days of zero cases in Victoria, and residents of New South Wales bracing themselves for a positive count exceeding 100 cases on Monday.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has foreshadowed that she expects the state’s case numbers to get worse with Sunday’s numbers reporting 77 new locally acquired cases.

“I’m anticipating the numbers in New South Wales will be greater than 100 tomorrow (Monday),” Berejiklian said.

“That’s what I’m anticipating, and I’ll be shocked if it’s less than 100 this time tomorrow.”

The premier also confirmed that a NSW woman in her 90s died after contracting COVID-19 within her home setting. It remains unclear as to whether the woman had been vaccinated.

“Tragically, we’ve seen one older person die and I want to extend my deepest condolences to their families and loved ones,” Berejiklian said.

Another 52 people in NSW have been hospitalised with COVID-19, 15 of whom are being cared for in ICU. Five of those patients are on ventilators. 

With the lockdown of greater Sydney and most parts of the state likely to continue, the federal government has said it will step in to help businesses crippled by the public health orders.

On Sunday Victorian premier Daniel Andrews issued a call for residents to return home before the state closed its border to NSW, classifying the state and the ACT as red zones from midnight.

“Be quick about it. Border conditions can change. We have been abundantly clear: Don’t delay, come back today,” Andrews told a press pack at the weekend.

The NSW premier announced new COVID-19 restrictions for the state on Friday, including capping the number of mourners at funerals to 10 people from Sunday, with a strong warning that lockdown measures will continue beyond the foreshadowed three week period. 

Berejiklian has dialled up the tone of concern in her messaging about the COVID-19 outbreak in her state in the past few days.

“I need everybody to be shocked,” the premier said, reiterating a message that the 2021 lockdown period has been ‘the scariest’ situation the state has faced since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“New South Wales is facing the biggest challenge we have faced since the pandemic started.”

The premier warned that unless the number of positive COVID-19 cases experienced a ‘drastic turn-around’, she did not expect that the NSW lockdown could end next week on 16 July.

The latest NSW daily case update has recorded 44 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours leading up to 8pm on Thursday. Nineteen of these positive cases were infectious with the virus while moving about the community and NSW Health is currently investigating the situation of another seven people who were carriers.

NSW Health data shows that 21 of the 44 new cases recorded overnight were from south-west Sydney, eight were from south-east Sydney and seven from western Sydney. The department said that transmission in these local areas were of ‘great concern’.

The new statistics bring the total number of locally acquired COVID-19 cases linked to the NSW outbreak that started in June to 439.

As a result, the premier said the government was implementing tighter measures for Greater Sydney, including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour.

The first set of new restrictions come into effect from 5pm today and include:

  • Limiting outdoor gatherings to two people (excluding embers of the same household)
  • Limiting travel within 10km radius of a person’s home for exercise or outdoor recreation (including a ban on carpooling with any person not in your household)
  • A ban on visiting the shops to ‘browse’, and a limit of one person per household permitted to do the shopping each day

The premier also said that funeral services would be limited to 10 people from Sunday 11 July.

“When you have the rate of transmission that we do in the community, we’re now not only looking at areas where the transmission has occurred, but we’re trying to prevent any what we call superseding events, we want to prevent any opportunity with someone with the virus turns up and spreads it to others. 

“Therefore, heartbreakingly, from Sunday funerals will only be able to be 10 people,” Berejiklian said.

When asked by a reporter why the NSW government was enacting tighter restrictions two weeks into declaring the initial lockdown, the premier said the changing policy position was based on evolving medical and health advice. But earlier in her address to the press pack, Berejiklian also conceded that the state’s relative safety from COVID over the last 18 months had created a ‘degree of complacency’ within the community.

The premier noted that the virulent spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, combined with this complacency, was a bad combination in the circumstances of the current outbreak and she urged citizens to reconsider their need to visit shops or visit those who they do not live with.

“Don’t think that because you don’t live in a particular part of Greater Sydney or the greater metropolitan area that’s currently in lockdown, that your area won’t get this or that you’re safe,” Berejiklian said. 

“Please assume that every time you leave your home, you are at risk of getting the virus and bringing it home to your family.”

“I appreciate it’s a concerning time for all of us. This is not a time to complacency, it’s not the time to cut corners. Compliance is so important – it means sticking to the rules at all times.”

Restrictions for regional NSW will continue unchanged.

On Thursday prime minister Scott Morrison announced that disaster payments, with looser eligibility criteria, would be made available to citizens of NSW and that another 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses would be delivered to the state next week

The NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant also used today’s press conference to stress that with only 9% of the state population currently vaccinated against the virus, changed policy settings that did away with lockdown measures and allowed the spread of COVID-19 would be devastating – for health and economic outcomes. 

“We cannot let this virus take further foothold and lead to an exponential rate rise in cases. It will have significant impacts in terms of health and well-being of our community,” Chant said.

The premier warned that a strategy to open up the state without significantly higher vaccination uptake would result in ‘thousands and thousands’ of people in hospital.

“When we look around the world and, we look at countries that are opening up, that are living freely with COVID and the Delta strain, they’re able to do that because half of their population is vaccinated,” Berejiklian said.

“We’re nowhere near that yet. So until we get substantial rates of vaccination, we cannot afford to live with the virus, we have to quash it now.”

A person in their 20s who has contracted COVID-19 in NSW has been hospitalised and is on a ventilator, the premier added, suggesting the health crisis did not only pose a risk to the elderly and vulnerable members of the community. 

“We have currently got 43 people in hospital due to COVID, 10 people in ICU, four of whom are ventilated,” Chant said. 

“We urge the community to follow the stay at home rules and the public health advice to protect themselves.”


READ MORE:

Victorians subject to new COVID restrictions

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