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Australia NSW's COVID outbreak is increasing — here's three things that could send Sydney into lockdown

23:50  23 june  2021
23:50  23 june  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Lockdown.

It's something Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly stated she doesn't want to impose on NSW throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

But just over a week since the first locally acquired case of the virus' highly transmissible Delta variant was discovered in Sydney's eastern suburbs, its shaping as a very real possibility.

Yesterday, NSW's COVID outbreak grew by 16 cases — spreading from Bondi to West Hoxton in south-west Sydney.

Authorities were particularly concerned about four infections that they had been unable to link to known cases.

A raft of new social distancing restrictions were introduced and residents in seven Sydney councils have been banned from leaving the metropolitan area for non-essential reasons.

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Lockdowns are not new in Australia. Melbourne has endured four, while Brisbane and Perth have both been sent into snap shutdowns multiple times due to locally acquired COVID-19 cases.

Most of Sydney, however, has remained open for more than 12 months, with the exception of the northern beaches, which was the subject of a large COVID-19 cluster over Christmas.

"We have always said we will not burden our citizens unless we absolutely have to," Ms Berejiklian said yesterday.

"I am not going to rule out further action, I am not going to rule out what happens beyond a week."

Dr Abrar Chughtai, an epidemiologist and expert in infectious diseases from the University of New South Wales, said there were three key indicators authorities would be looking at before introducing stay at home orders.

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They are:

  • The vaccination status of the community
  • The kind of cases identified
  • The virus variant

Dr Chughtai said once Australia had a greater proportion of the population vaccinated, governments would not have to consider lockdowns.

However, only around 20 per cent of the NSW population has received at least one COVID-19 jab.

"Mainly we need vaccination but at this time, when less than 10 per cent of the Australian population are fully vaccinated, this means we have to rely on other measures like lockdowns, distancing and mask use," he said.

That includes scrutinising the types of cases within the outbreak, which started when a driver for international flight crew became infected with the Delta variant of COVID-19.

"For example if all cases are close contacts and you are able to trace all contacts of those cases, then you probably don't need lockdown," Dr Chughtai said.

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"[On Monday] the Premier announced all cases had known contact and that's why they didn't decide on a lockdown. But yesterday there were four mystery cases so they may need to re-consider this."

On top of this, the variant in question is a "nasty" one, Dr Chughtai said.

"As we know the Delta variant is really, really, really nasty so if cases of transmission are high, you need a hard lockdown," he said.

There are now more than 100 exposure locations in Sydney, including two flights to and from New Zealand, and there has been "fleeting" transmission at a Vaucluse café and a Bondi department store.

"I can imagine the contact tracing is a kind of nightmare at this time," Dr Chughtai said.

He said masks could prevent snap lockdowns and the Delta variant means they have never been more important to wear.

"There are many studies that show if a large amount of the population is using masks, you don't need snap lockdowns.

"Previously we saw complete lockdowns in NSW but now the lockdown isn't very strict as people in NSW are using masks [and] compliance seems to be high."

Dr Chughtai said he believed NSW may be able to get control of the outbreak.

"We have more understanding of the pandemic and more evidence-based policies so I think we are probably learning … but it's very difficult to make these decisions around restrictions and we should acknowledge that."

Nicholas Talley, who is a professor of epidemiology and the editor in chief of the Medical Journal of Australia, sees things differently.

"I'm concerned the restrictions are not tough enough — this is the Delta variant, the worst possible threat, and going hard and early will provide the community the greatest safety," he said.

Kristine McCartney, who is the director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, said Delta is 100 per cent more transmissible than previous strains.

[Zendesk COVID form embed]

Sydney's Covid lockdown to be 'reassessed' but some rules here to stay .
Some experts believe the worrying New South Wales outbreak which has soared to 149 cases and plunged Sydney and surrounding regions into lockdown for a fortnight is 'fundamentally under control'.Millions of Australians could be freed from lockdown within days if new coronavirus infections in NSW remain 'in a holding pattern'.

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This is interesting!