Australia NSW's COVID outbreak is increasing — here's three things that could send Sydney into lockdown
NSW COVID cluster's 'enormous' expansion sparks concern, but outbreak remains traced for now
Experts remain optimistic a COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney's eastern suburbs is contained, despite yesterday's "enormous" rise in case numbers that saw the Bondi cluster almost double in size. The number of locally acquired infections in NSW yesterday swelled to 21, after 10 new cases were recorded.Seven of those came in after the 8:00pm reporting deadline and will be officially included in today's numbers, which are set to be released at 11:00am EST.NSW Health has been continuously adding to the list of venues visited by infected people, which are mainly around Sydney.
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 ofand 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.
Sydney outbreak reaches ‘scariest period' as virus jumps borders
A police investigation into the conduct of the limousine driver who was the first case in the city's growing outbreak is ongoing. Meanwhile, a police investigation into the use of private drivers in the hotel quarantine system which started Sydney's growing outbreak is ongoing, with results expected next week. The state's Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said, at this point, a lockdown was not necessary in NSW as contact tracers have the outbreak under control.
- 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.
NSW government criticised on Q+A for not going into COVID lockdown over Bondi cluster of Delta variant
Health experts appearing on Q+A say that the NSW government has made a mistake by not locking down in response to the spread of the COVID Delta variant in the Bondi cluster.Q+A pannellists Mary-Louise McLaws and Bill Bowtell on Thursday night criticised the decision of NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant and Premier Gladys Berejiklian not to send Sydney, or at least parts of it, into a snap lockdown to contain the latest outbreak.
"[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, 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.
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'.