SYDNEY, Aug 20 (NNN-AGENCIES) – Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales (NSW), the epicentre of the country’s current COVID outbreak, announced today, to extend the lockdown on Greater Sydney until the end of Sept, and to impose a curfew on some areas of concern.
For residents and businesses in the local government areas of concern, the curfew will be introduced from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. local time, except for authorised workers, emergencies or medical care, from Monday, Aug 23. Outdoor exercise will be limited to one hour per day.
In Greater Sydney, mask-wearing will be mandatory, when the residents are outside home, except when exercising, from Monday, Aug 23.
The current lockdown on Greater Sydney and surrounding areas, which is scheduled to end on Aug 28, will be extended until the end of Sept. The announcement came, after the state recorded 644 new locally acquired cases and four deaths in the past 24 hours.
There have been 10,582 locally acquired cases reported in NSW since June 16, when the first case in this outbreak was reported, accounting for roughly one-fourth of Australia’s total COVID-19 cases, since the initial outbreak early last year.
NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said, the tightened restrictions came as a response to two factors.
“The first was the sudden escalation of cases, and secondly the feedback from police, about a handful of people flagrantly disregarding the rules,” she told the daily press conference today.
The government also announced some new restrictions around workplaces and authorised workers from the areas of concern, such as childcare workers and disability support workers, who live or work in these areas must have their first vaccination dose by Aug 30.
Authorised workers who work outside these areas are only permitted to work, if rapid antigen testing is implemented at their work-site, or they have their first vaccination dose by Aug 30.
The state police force will also be given more power to ensure compliance, including the power to lockdown apartment blocks, while health assesses the COVID risk, to declare a residential premise a COVID-risk premise, and require all people to present to police, during compliance checks and to direct a person who has been issued with an infringement notice to return to their place of residence.
NSW Police Commissioner, Michael Fuller, said, 3,500 tickets had been issued this week, and it is difficult for police on the ground to manage those areas of concern.
Despite the tightened restrictions, Berejiklian flagged that, there might be some freedom for those fully vaccinated people at the end of Aug, without revealing more details.
Epidemiologist Professor, Michael Toole, from Burnet Institute said, the current situation needs the government to “put in a kind of circuit breaker” and the harder restrictions should be imposed on a wider range.
“The curfew is only in 12 local government areas of concern. It is not across Sydney. I think we need to have that across Sydney, otherwise, we are always behind the virus.” he said.