Hello all. Welcome to Thursday.
As anticipated, the Greater Sydney lockdown has been extended for four weeks. The restrictions are now slated to lift on August 28, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Wednesday. The state government has flagged additional financial support for businesses impacted by lockdowns. Now, businesses with turnover of up to $250 million are eligible for $15,000 support grants. Three new local government areas are now subject to the toughest restrictions: Parramatta, Georges River and Campbelltown.
Some construction will be permitted, though. Construction workers outside of the eight local government areas of concern will be permitted to conduct preparatory work at non-occupied premises from today. “There will be a cap on the number of tradespeople internally, being the maximum of two, and externally a maximum cap of five,” Deputy Premier John Barilaro said. Sydneysiders outside of the eight high-alert local government areas will be permitted to have tradespeople in their home on a ‘contactless’ basis.
Scott Morrison got up and announced increased disaster payments for individuals, too. From next week, the maximum payment of $600 to workers will be increased to $750. This brings the support payment to the level of JobKeeper, without reintroducing the mechanics of the wage subsidy, which has become something of a political football. Those who already receive social security payments like JobSeeker are also entitled to the disaster payments now if they have lost work.
Can we expect Sydney’s lockdown to actually end on August 28? Australia’s economic eggheads aren’t convinced. The fallout will see as many as 300,000 jobs lost and the national economy contract by 2.7% this quarter, according to Commonwealth Bank economists. ANZ expects a somewhat milder impact – but it also anticipates that tough lockdown restrictions won’t finish up until the end of September.
One more lockdown story, sorry – it’s the talk of the nation! The Nine papers report that the National Cabinet will on Friday begin “creating the path out of lockdowns” by figuring out how many Australians need to be vaccinated before we can pull the plug on citywide shutdowns as a tool. As an example, Berejiklian has previously cited a figure of 75 to 80 per cent of the population needing to be vaccinated before the virus was allowed to circulate in the community. This meeting will be the first time concrete goals will be set out for numbers nationwide.
Victoria recorded seven new local cases of COVID-19 today, after the city exited its lockdown. Of those, six were linked to existing outbreaks, and the seventh is being investigated. That seventh case has worried experts, as it is a traffic controller is believed to have worked at the Moonee Valley Racecourse drive-through testing site for two days while infectious.
Qantas, one of Australia’s corporate titans most affected by the pandemic, has been making a bit of noise. The airline is contemplating a plan which would make vaccination mandatory for aviation staff, and has already strongly encouraged workers to get the jab and offered paid time off for appointments. “We’ve seen that just one COVID-positive employee can inadvertently shut down a freight facility or passenger terminal, which can have a big impact on the broader community and economy,” the company said.
There’s been a lot going on recently, but climate change has still been happening regardless. A return to pre-pandemic carbon dioxide emissions shows “it’s business as usual”, said University of Sydney senior lecturer Dr Thomas Newsome. As co-author of a new report, Newsome says Australia must participate in a radical rethink of the global economy to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The lack of a hard carbon price has “isolated us from the rest of the world”, he argues.
The world’s opening up while we’re locking down, for better or worse. The UK on Wednesday said that England would soon lift its quarantine rules for non-UK residents. The rules are set to ease for fully vaccinated people from the US and the EU starting Monday. They currently have to isolate for up to 10 days upon arrival. Despite also being largely comprised of an island, the UK never pursued policy as tough as Australia’s shut borders.
One global story that has been chugging along merrily in the background is the global semiconductor shortage, which is wreaking havoc on computers, cars, and other industries. Apple CEO Tim Cook said on an earnings call Tuesday that silicon “supply constraints” will start affecting iPhone sales in the coming months. The shortage was already delaying production of the company’s MacBooks and iPad, Cook said in April.
What do we reckon about this one?