Under fire: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made some questionable remarks at her daily press conference on Thursday
Gladys Berejiklian has been accused of lying when she claimed Sydney has the toughest Covid restrictions Australia has ever seen – given Melbourne’s lockdown night curfews and compulsory outdoors masks and South Australia’s harsh recent restrictions.
The NSW Premier announced on Thursday that 239 cases of Covid-19 were recorded overnight, a pandemic record for Greater Sydney.
That included 70 cases that were infectious in the community from 110,962 tests – another milestone, and one that has resulted in further restrictions in the city’s west and south-west.
But the beleaguered Premier was swiftly called out on social media when she claimed at her daily press conference that NSW has the harshest rules of any Australian jurisdiction so far.
The remark came after Sky News journalist Andrew Clennell demanded Ms Berejiklian admit her strategy had failed to stop the spread of Delta variant, dooming the city to at least four more weeks of lockdown, but possibly more.
Clennell asked: ‘Will you admit… the strategy is failing and this death of 1,000 cuts, a little bit of restrictions every day, is not working and you have to come down hard?’
Ms Berejiklian responded that Sydney’s mobility data showed the population was abiding by the restrictions, and claimed: ‘Well, we have harsher restrictions in place than any other state has ever had.’
MELBOURNE: During Australia’s longest lockdown of 2020, residents were required to wear masks outside (above, at St Kilda) – and police were never far away
ADELAIDE: South Australia’s lockdown earlier this month saw the introduction of the nation’s harshest ever restrictions, including a 2.5km exercise limit. Above, testing queues in the ‘city of churches’
Veteran journalist Janine Perrett tweeted in response: ‘Will NSW Premier stop saying these are the harshest measures anywhere Australia has ever seen as it is blatantly untrue.’
Punter Dianne Kaines erupted: ‘I’m incandescent with rage. What an out and out LIE.’
During last year’s second wave, all Melbourne residents were required by law to wear masks outdoors. They were restricted from travelling more than 5km from home and required to be at home at night due to a curfew.
Meanwhile, Premier Daniel Andrews erected a ‘ring of steel’ around the city to prevent the spread of the virus into the regions and other states.
Likewise, South Australian residents briefly had even stricter restrictions imposed on them – including an onerous 2.5km exercise limit – during that state’s brief lockdown earlier this month.
The NSW Government has long resisted similar measures, although Ms Berejiklian announced today that she will require masks to be worn outside the home in eight Local Government Areas of concern.
That applies for the Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Blacktown, Cumberland, Parramatta, Campbelltown and Georges River.
The Premier also suggested the state’s NSW vaccination rate was, or could be, ‘higher’ than other states – a remark which likewise received a poor reception online.
‘Whilst we’re going through a very difficult time in NSW, let’s think about a period of time when potentially, if we live more free than any other state, because our vaccination rates are higher,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
But NSW is presently behind Victoria in the vaccination race, according to recent Federal Health Department data.
Almost 1.4million NSW residents have been vaccinated, compared to 1.57 Victorians.
One Twitter user remarked: ‘Lets imagine our way out of this crisis? No wonder things are so bad with this kind of leadership (sic)’.
Added a second: ‘The hubris of this woman is infuriating.’
A woman in activewear runs along the beachfront in Bronte in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on Wednesday. Greater Sydney is almost five weeks into a strict stay at home lockdown to stop the spread of the highly-contagious Delta Covid-19 variant
Today’s spike in cases is the highest increase the state has recorded in one day in the entire pandemic.
NSW Health also confirmed the death of another two of the state’s residents from Covid-19 – a woman in her 90s and a man in his 80s from south-western Sydney.
Neither of them were vaccinated against the virus.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said 25 per cent of the state’s residents over the age of 70 had yet to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
There are now 182 patients suffering from the virus in hospitals across the state (up 17 from Wednesday) – of which 54 are in intensive care and 22 are on a ventilator.
Dr Chant said 17 of the patients in intensive care (31 per cent) were under the age of 40 – including two in their teens, eight in their 20s and three in their 40s.
Just a day after extending the city’s stay-at-home lockdown for another four weeks, Ms Berejiklian also announced two million Sydney residents living in one of eight hotspot LGAs in the west and south-western suburbs would have to wear a mask whenever they leave home.
Those areas are Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Blacktown, Cumberland, Parramatta, Campbelltown and Georges River.
‘If you step foot outside your household, you need to wear a mask at all times. It doesn’t matter where it is,’ she said.
‘We’re seeing too much evidence of people who are not wearing masks when they need to.’
Penalties for not wearing a face mask across the state meanwhile will increase from $200 to $500.
From midnight on Saturday morning, residents in those LGAs also cannot travel more than 5km from their home for essential shopping or for exercise.
‘These harsh measures are the harshest Australia has ever faced in a lockdown,’ she said.
HOW SYDNEY’S TOUGHER LOCKDOWN RULES WILL AFFECT YOU
In the eight hotspot LGAs (Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta):
Residents must wear a mask whenever leaving the home, including when they are outdoors.
The travel limit for essential exercise and shopping has been reduced to 5km from 10km.
Those in a ‘singles bubble’ with another person must follow the same travel restriction.
The penalty for breaking mask restrictions will increase from $200 to $500
‘The Delta strain is different to anything we have seen,’ she said.
‘I appreciate whilst all of us are under stress and pressure with the lock down, if you live in those eight local government areas, we are asking so much of you.’
Health officials said 104 of the new cases – almost half – were found in south-west Sydney, while 58 were detected in the city’s west.
Another 51 though – up from 20 on Wednesday – were found in the central Sydney local health district in a worrying sign the outbreak has broken containment lines in the western suburbs and was moving back east.
The outbreak began on June 16 when an airport transport worker tested positive to Covid-19 in the city’s eastern suburbs.
Thursday’s spike in cases is the highest increase the state has recorded in one day in the entire pandemic
She replied: ‘I’m never going to suggest we get everything right.’
The state leader has faced criticism for refusing to impose stay-at-home orders in Greater Sydney until June 26, 10 days after the city’s outbreak began.
Victoria has just removed restrictions after a two-week lockdown and South Australia has released residents from a one-week shutdown.
‘I don’t think any government around the world can say they get everything right because there’s no rulebook,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
‘I’m the first one to admit at every stage of the process in the last 18 months, with the benefit of hindsight it would be wonderful to know the alternative course. We’ll never know that.’