New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has extended the lockdown of Greater Sydney and surrounding areas for another week, as the delta strain of COVID-19 continues its tighten its grip.
The Premier said her aim, and that of the NSW Government was to make this the last lockdown that New South Wales faced, adding that the COVID-19 vaccine was that state’s “key to freedom”.
The Premier said: “The reason for this is this delta strain is a game-changer, it’s extremely transmissible and more contagious than any form of this virus that we have seen. The reason why the NSW Government has taken this position is because we don’t want to be in a situation where we are constantly having to move between lockdown, no lockdown, lockdown, no lockdown.
“What we want to do is give is our best chance of making sure this is the only lockdown we have until the vast majority of our citizens are vaccinated. The vaccine is the key to our freedom, the vaccine is the key to saving lives and keeping the economy open.
“We appreciate and understand the stress this means for individuals, for families and of course for businesses. But what would be far worse is being in a situation where you have to live in and out of lockdown.
“That is not a way to live and we want to give our citizens the best chance of staying safe and healthy but also making sure our businesses survive and thrive moving forward until that vaccination period is upon us, and that is the context of why we made this decision.”
The Australian Hotels Association NSW said that while the hotel sector would continue to proudly play its role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 thousands of staff and hoteliers have been left devastated by this extension of the lockdown.
AHA NSW CEO John Whelan said: “The lockdown extension is devastating news for more than 50,000 Greater Sydney- based staff who are out of work for another week, as well as the broader NSW hotel industry which has operated under restricted trading conditions for more than 15 months and counting,” Mr Whelan said.
“Our staff have rent and bills to pay. Many are not eligible for government support and a third week with no work really hits hard.
“Country and regional NSW have had no cases, but businesses there are also facing an extra week of restrictions.
“Today’s lockdown extension is particularly hard to take when we are seeing the world open up. We appear to be going backwards – with community vaccination still months away at best.
“Looking ahead, we simply can’t afford another Sydney CBD quarantine COVID breach – the economic and mental health costs of the ensuing lockdown are just too great.”
Karl Schlothauer, President of the Independent Bars Association said: “While we understand the safety of the community is paramount, the extension of lockouts will have further crippling effect on our members. The current support measures in place are welcomed but do not go far enough, and does not address major expenses like rent and staff. Our industry is now facing three weeks with little to no income and severely impacted revenue on either side of the lockdown due to the restrictions.
“We are calling on the government for more support, a clear plan on reopening and if the vaccine is our ticket to freedom, what does vaccine freedom look like.”
Premier Berejiklian did say that the NSW Treasurer was speaking to his Federal counterpart about what support could be given to both businesses and individuals during this stressful time, adding: “Our aim is to clamp out as much of the virus as we can while we are in lockdown. The closer we get to zero cases of community transmission the better it is for all of us.
“But clearly we need to think of life beyond lockdown and provide certainty, which is why the NSW Government will put out our plan, our exit strategy from the lockdown to give everybody certainty about the future.
“I just want to stress in the strongest possible terms, the next nine or 10 days are absolutely critical. Our future is in our own hands. It’s not just about following the rules, it’s not just about knowing what to do, it’s actually not cutting corners, it’s making sure everybody does the right thing.”