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Covid Australia: Kerry Chant did NOT demand Gladys Berejiklian close down construction in Sydney

Sydney’s construction industry was brought to a total standstill by a Covid shutdown which went against the health advice of Dr Kerry Chant, new emails have revealed.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian slapped a two week ban on construction work across the city from July 19 as Delta outbreak daily case numbers hit triple digits. 

Throughout the pandemic, the premier insisted she was acting on the basis of the health advice she was being given by Chief Health Officer Dr Chant and her team.

But new emails from the time reveal the NSW government went far beyond what Dr Chant was recommending to tackle the spread of the disease in the industry.

On July 13, Dr Chant told health minister Brad Hazzard the greatest danger was not building sites but people breaking existing restrictions to visit friends and family. 

‘There is a need to further reduce mobility of people and reduce workplace transmission,’ she wrote in an email obtained by Daily Mail Australia. 

But she added: ‘The key driver of transmission remains household mixing or visiting.’

Dr Chant proposed just a partial shutdown of construction work, limited to a temporary halt on residential construction and non-essential repair work.

But instead the blanket ban was brought in by the NSW state government.

‘The anxiety it caused and the issues that arose from that was absolutely devastating,’ tradie Tane Butterworth told Nine News. 

‘It was such a hard time for us to deal with. 

Sydney’s construction industry was brought to a total standstill by a Covid shutdown which went against the health advice of Dr Kerry Chant (pictured), new emails have revealed

In an email obtained by Daily Mail Australia (pictured) Dr Chant proposed just a partial shutdown of construction work, limited to a temporary halt on residential construction and non-essential repair work

In an email obtained by Daily Mail Australia (pictured) Dr Chant proposed just a partial shutdown of construction work, limited to a temporary halt on residential construction and non-essential repair work

‘It was so frustrating for us to be sitting at home, doing nothing when we could have been at work, working to the code and actually getting something done.

‘The pain and suffering that it caused us is something that it will be with us for such a long time for me and all my staff.’

The cost of the construction industry shutdown was estimated at $800million to $1billion per week. 

The new revelations have sparked a furious backlash from NSW state opposition Labor leader Chris Minns.

The new revelations have sparked a furious backlash from NSW state opposition Labor Leader Chris Minns (pictured)

The new revelations have sparked a furious backlash from NSW state opposition Labor Leader Chris Minns (pictured)

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian slapped a two week ban on construction work across the city from July 19 as Delta outbreak daily case numbers hit triple digits (pictured, an abandoned construction site at Sydney's Barangaroo)

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian slapped a two week ban on construction work across the city from July 19 as Delta outbreak daily case numbers hit triple digits (pictured, an abandoned construction site at Sydney’s Barangaroo)

‘What is clear is this government put a bulldozer through the construction industry when they didn’t need to,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

‘They ordered tools down for every single site when the Chief Health Officer only recommended the closure of residential construction and repair services.

‘This was not based on the health advice, and it was opposed by Infrastructure NSW.

‘And then when construction was reopened – they didn’t allow workers to return or sites to reopen in LGAs of concern.

‘These workers deserve an explanation.’

The cost of the construction industry shutdown was estimated at $800million to $1billion per week and caused a huge impact on Sydney tradies like Tane Butterworth, seen here

The cost of the construction industry shutdown was estimated at $800million to $1billion per week and caused a huge impact on Sydney tradies like Tane Butterworth, seen here

Infrastructure NSW CEO Simon Draper warned the NSW health team about the possible financial and mental health impact of a construction industry shutdown in an email obtained by Daily Mail Australia (pictured)

Infrastructure NSW CEO Simon Draper warned the NSW health team about the possible financial and mental health impact of a construction industry shutdown in an email obtained by Daily Mail Australia (pictured)

The new emails reveal that on July 14, Dr Chant followed up her limited shutdown proposal with details of how Victoria handled construction in their 2020 lockdowns. 

The concern sprang from a series of Covid clusters without a common link in south-west Sydney among tradies in small construction companies.

Health officials realised they were difficult to track and tracing co-workers among various sub-contractors on the same site was proving near impossible.

A total shutdown was considered, but after canvassing opinion from Victoria and feedback from the construction industry, scaled back restrictions were proposed.

Dr Chant told health minister Brad Hazzard (pictured) the greatest danger was not building sites but people breaking existing restrictions to visit friends and family

Dr Chant told health minister Brad Hazzard (pictured) the greatest danger was not building sites but people breaking existing restrictions to visit friends and family

Infrastructure NSW CEO Simon Draper told the NSW health team that even Victoria’s limited industry shutdown was unnecessary in 2021. 

‘The Victorians did take strong measures in their second lockdown when less was known but there is now a lot more experience,’ he wrote in an email.

‘The cost of shutting down or severely restricting construction would be enormous.

‘Not only financially, but the well-being impacts of many thousands of construction workers being stuck at home for extended periods.

‘Obviously they cannot work from home and I do worry about the secondary impacts on those workers and their family members.’ 

Infrastructure NSW CEO Simon Draper told the NSW health team that even Victoria's limited industry shutdown was unnecessary in 2021 (pictured, Sydney CBD in lockdown in July)

Infrastructure NSW CEO Simon Draper told the NSW health team that even Victoria’s limited industry shutdown was unnecessary in 2021 (pictured, Sydney CBD in lockdown in July)

Even at the time of the announcement of the industry shutdown, Dr Chant moved to distance herself from the decision, saying it was a political choice. 

She said the health team had an input on the decision-making process, but added; ‘The matter for how that is done is really a matter for broader government.

‘Clearly we’re not the experts in logistic chains and other things and so we need that whole of government approach to determine what things are critical, what things are not.’

Instead the NSW Government pushed ahead with the total shutdown for two weeks before reverting to Dr Chant’s original partial closure plan. 

Former Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) pushed ahead with the total shutdown for two weeks before reverting to Dr Chant's original partial closure plan

Former Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) pushed ahead with the total shutdown for two weeks before reverting to Dr Chant’s original partial closure plan

‘We want to make sure we have a no regrets policy,’ Ms Berejiklian said as she announced the shutdown. 

‘We want to make sure we get out of this lockdown as soon as we can.

‘I know that many people will be very angry and upset with me, with the government, but please know that we’re making these decisions for no other reason than because they are the right decisions.’

At the time of the first email about the construction industry shutdown, new Covid cases were at 99 a day in NSW. Two weeks later the daily figure was up to 176 and on September 10, the numbers peaked at 1603.

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk