NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned the state not to “jump to any conclusions” regarding an extension of the Greater Sydney coronavirus lockdown, after reports emerged that senior government figures have considered the financial implications of maintaining the restrictions until mid-September.
Citing unnamed government sources, The Australian reported on Monday that state officials have sought economic modelling for a lockdown extension through both September 3 and September 17, suggesting the state’s restrictions will extend well past their current end date of July 30.
Worsening case numbers have all but assured that restrictions will carry into August. The state recorded 141 new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Sunday, with 38 of those infectious while in the community.
Speaking to radio host Ben Fordham on 2GB Monday morning, Berejiklian dismissed claims made in The Australian’s report.
“I know everyone thinks they’ve got a scoop in saying when this will end and when this will start,” the premier said.
“The real answer is not even the experts have that answer, because it is literally a day by day, week by week issue.”
Any significant lengthening of current lockdown measures is likely to elicit changes to government funding for impacted business and workers.
Although both the state and federal governments have committed to $500 million a week in support funding for impacted businesses, The Australian reports NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is expected to once again seek the return of JobKeeper.
Select business groups and unions have already advocated for the program’s revival, arguing the wage subsidy program would cover more people, and to a greater extent, than the patchwork of state and federal measures currently in play.
However, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has long maintained JobKeeper was a temporary measure, which is no longer fit for purpose given Australia’s broad economic recovery from the disruption of 2020.
The Age reports another rift has opened between the state and federal governments, with NSW seeking heightened vaccine access, and Canberra asserting lockdowns will be the primary solution to the current outbreak.
Rising case numbers have put both jurisdictions in interesting positions: weeks after praising NSW for holding off on harsh lockdown measures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday said limiting movement should be the state’s primary goal.
“The vaccines can provide some assistance, but they are not going to end this lockdown,” Morrison told reporters in Canverra. “What’s going to end this lockdown is it being effective, and it being effectively put in place and complied with.”
That statement came after Berejiklian appealed to National Cabinet for greater supplies of the Pfizer vaccine — a request which was turned down.
Vaccination rates will be a determining factor for both this lockdown and the future of Australia’s COVID-19 response, Berejiklian said Monday.
The response “won’t always just be lockdowns,” Berejiklian said.
“It will be a combination of restrictions and the vaccine rollout, and that will apply, I think, to our whole nation.
“You can’t live as freely as you like with the Delta strain unless you have a large number of your population vaccinated.”
Some further vaccine relief may be coming the state’s way regardless, thanks to updated health advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
The group announced on Saturday said all adult Sydneysiders should “strongly consider” the AstraZeneca vaccine, given COVID-19 currently presents a greater risk to the community than any of the vaccine’s vanishingly rare potential side-effects.
Just over 16% of Australia’s population aged 16 and above is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Department of Health states.