Premiers push to lock up suburbs
Residents of Melbourne and Sydney could face strict home quarantine measures within days, as the NSW and Victorian governments push for tougher lockdown measures in Friday’s national cabinet meeting.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned residents on Thursday to be prepared’ for tougher lockdown measures.
She warned that further restrictions in NSW — forcing nonessential workers to stay home and head outside only for basic necessities — would be imposed if infection rates failed to fall after bars, cafes and casinos were effectively closed earlier in the week.
“If we don’t see things shifting in the numbers because of those actions, NSW will have to go further,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“No need to panic — supermarkets and essential things will always be available.
“But if things haven’t shifted because of the actions which we took earlier in the week, and actions which I’m very pleased we took at the time , we will have to go further, and I want everyone to be prepared for that.”
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and her Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton hinted at tougher measures to limit the spread of the virus ahead of the national cabinet meeting.
“Everybody must understand that it is time to make some sacrifices if we are to save lives,” Ms
Mikakos said. Professor Sutton, who tweeted on Wednesday that it was time to “go hard, go fast”, declined to say whether his advice to Premier Daniel Andrews included quarantining residents.
“The Premier will take that case to national cabinet and they’ll make a call. I think if any of us failed the elderly, youth in one suburb or another, in regional Victoria or metro Melbourne, then we all fail ourselves,” he said.
Health experts have debated imposing localised shutdowns around COVID-19 hotspots as a prelude to implementing wider restrictions if the arc of infection rates fails to slow.
This could see areas such as Sydney’s east, Blacktown in the city’s west and Toorak in inner Melbourne among the first to face tougher restrictions.
A breakdown of known cases released by NSW Health showed that the Waverley local government area, which takes in Bondi Beach, recorded 105 confirmed cases of COVID-19, eight of which were from a source that has yet to be identified.
The Sydney city area was the next highest, with 69 cases, followed by the northern beaches (68), Woollahra (66) and the central coast (44). In the city’s west, Blacktown recorded 30 cases.
In Victoria, the highest number of cases was in the local government area of Stonnington, one of the wealthiest in the country. With 57 confirmed cases, it includes suburbs such as Toorak and South Yarra.
As talks continue towards
tightening restrictions, the NSW Police Force was on Thursday granted expanded access to COVID-19 patient data to help with enforcement of self-isolation protocols.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 stood at 2806 at 9pm on Thursday. In NSW, the state with the highest concentration of infections, numbers grew by 190 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday. In Victoria, the increase was 54 cases.
The Australian understands that Ms Berejiklian is weighing up, in addition to quarantining, the declaration of a state of emergency. That would give the NSW Police Force elevated decisionmaking powers similar to those granted to the NSW Rural Fire Service during the summer bushfire crisis.
The Australian revealed on Thursday that NSW police had been seeking greater access to the names and details of quarantined COVID-19 patients held by the NSW Health Department in order to conduct overt and covert monitoring of people ordered to selfisolate.
But the request prompted a standoff when NSW Health denied police access to the list and instead advised them to call a hotline with the names they needed checked. The matter ultimately led to an intervention by the NSW Police Minister and was resolved by Thursday afternoon.
Currently, NSW Health manages the self-isolation of patients by calling them on their phones each day, among other measures, to ensure they comply.
Ms Berejiklian met police commissioner Michael Fuller on Thursday and gave him decisionmaking powers over cruise ship arrivals, a decision normally controlled by maritime authorities and NSW Health.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay said the decision to do so, in the aftermath of the Ruby Princess fiasco, raised doubts about her confidence in NSW Health as a lead agency.
In Victoria, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said there had been 88 spot checks of people in self-isolation on Thursday, with seven not at home and two others who had given the wrong address.
These checks were being conducted by Protective Service Officers, who normally patrol the tram and train networks, which were currently experiencing lower patronage, he said.
“Lives will depend on everybody doing the right thing,’’ Mr Ashton said.
“At the moment, community must come first.’’