Pre­miers push to lock up sub­urbs

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - YONI BASHAN NSW PO­LIT­I­CAL CORRESPOND­ENT

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.’’

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