New South Wales Won’t Rule Out More Curbs as Cases Top 100
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian refused to rule out the potential for further restrictions as case numbers in Sydney remained stubbornly high despite tough lockdown measures.
Australia’s most populous state recorded 105 new locally-transmitted coronavirus cases in the 24 hours through 8 p.m. Saturday, underscoring challenges to contain the latest outbreak of the delta variant.
“I won’t rule out tweaks in the next few days to make sure we haven’t missed anything,” Berejiklian told reporters Sunday. “Our aim is to quash the virus.”
With 27 of the 105 cases listed as having been infectious in the community, Berejiklian said authorities were focused on seeing a reduction in that category, which has remained at similar levels for successive days. “That is the number that worries us the most,” she said.
It’s resulted in emerging hotspots across three of Sydney’s local government areas, where the vast majority of the city’s locally-acquired cases have been reported. Communities in those locations were barred from leaving the area on Saturday as the government attempts to ring-fence the proliferation of the virus.
The premier has also increased restrictions across Greater Sydney, including tougher rules for non-critical retail trading, and an order to cease construction work until July 30, when the current lockdown is due to end.
The state has recorded 1,242 locally acquired cases since the latest outbreak started a month ago, when an unvaccinated chauffeur infected with the delta variant spread it while transporting airline crew.
Without a reduction in case numbers, the lockdown deadline could be extended for a third time. Berejiklian previously indicated that local case numbers would need to be near zero for the order to end.
Sydney’s outbreak has spread to Melbourne, the nation’s second-largest city, sparking a five-day lockdown on Friday, the city’s fifth since the pandemic began. Authorities on Sunday reported 16 new locally-acquired infections in Melbourne, and an additional case in regional Victoria state.
The ban on construction will deal a hefty blow to New South Wales. Economic modeling carried out by the state’s business industry body estimates that losses will amount to around A$1 billion ($740 million) each week the sector remains out of action, the Daily Telegraph reported. That is on top of losses sustained by the near complete closure of the hospitality and tourism industries.
State treasurer Dominic Perrottet on Sunday urged eligible small businesses to come forward for the first raft of tax-free grants that pay up to A$15,000, when applications open tomorrow.
Even before the construction announcement, the fallout from the latest surge in cases was inflicting economic pain. After a surprising rebound from the early doldrums of the pandemic, Australia’s economy -- which was already expected to slow amid a general deceleration -- is now on track to stagnate in the second half of the year, according to HSBC Holdings Plc’s Paul Bloxham.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia head of Australian economics Gareth Aird predicted that with the escalation of the situation, lockdowns in Sydney alone could shave 1.4 percentage points off gross domestic product, triggering a contraction for the nation this quarter.
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