Australia

New COVID-19 restrictions take effect in Greater Sydney as NSW braces for more cases

Tradies across Greater Sydney have downed tools as construction sites shut down for two weeks as tough new COVID-19 restrictions begin.

It’s the first time the construction industry has been shut down in NSW since the pandemic began and state Labor is calling on the federal government to re-introduce JobKeeper to help businesses and workers survive the harsher measures announced on Saturday.

Labor says shutting down construction will cost the NSW economy at least $700 million per week and affect at least 250,000 workers.

Greater Sydney and surrounding regions have begun the fourth week of a lockdown after the government imposed a raft of new restrictions, including the ban on all construction work, the closure of non-essential retail outlets not including supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and liquor stores.

Public transport has been scaled back and is now operating on a Sunday timetable, while stay-at-home orders have been tightened in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool areas with locals not allowed to leave until 30 July unless – unless they are essential workers.

Australian Constructors Association CEO Jon Davies said the NSW building industry had been blindsided by the shutdown of the entire industry, saying it was “excessive and completely unnecessary”.

“We’re probably one of the best-managed industries from a COVID perspective,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Monday.

The ban covers brickies, glaziers, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, landscapers, painters plasterers and labourers who can only perform emergency maintenance.

Mr Davies wants the government to come up with an industry support package.

“We need to find a way to financially support all of those industries which will now be doing it tough,” he said.

New South Wales on Sunday announced 105 new local coronavirus cases and one new death. 

Of those, 66 are linked to a known cluster and 55 are close contacts. The source of infection for 39 cases is under investigation.

Of the new cases, 34 were active in the community for at least some of their infectious period.

Seventy six cases have been hospitalised, with 18 people in intensive care, seven on ventilation.

A woman in her 90s in southeastern Sydney has died, the fourth fatality linked to this outbreak.

Over 66,000 tests were recorded in the past 24 hours.

The results come a day after sweeping new restrictions were put in place for the next two weeks to “quash” the virus.

“I am not embarrassed to say that in public life, yesterday was probably the most difficult day I’ve had personally because we don’t take these decisions lightly,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

She cautioned that numbers were not expected “shift massively” for at least three days.

“But we want the community to be more vigilant than ever before because I am convinced that working together we will start to see those numbers nudge,” she said.

“I don’t think there is anybody who wants to see this lockdown last longer than it needs to. That is why we are throwing everything at it because we have a two-week window when we are in a hard lockdown to be able to crush this thing.” 

Of the 105 locally-acquired cases, 76 are from southwestern Sydney, 12 are from western Sydney, nine are from southeastern Sydney LHD, five are from central Sydney and two are from the Nepean Blue Mountains area.

Fairfield, Bankstown, Liverpool, Lakemba, Bayside, Sutherland, and Western Sydney remain among the areas of concern for testing.

“I really want to see a big rise in testing in Western Sydney, particularly in Cumberland and Mt Druitt,” Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.

Health authorities have also detected virus fragments in sewage in Wollongong, yet to register a case.

Dr Chant also asked worshippers marking Eid over the coming week to remain at home during the religious festival. 

“I know this is a very special time for many in our community. I just want to reiterate that we are asking that prayers be only performed in your house and please again, do not have visitors to your home including family members, and do not visit others,” she said.

On Saturday stay-at-home orders were tightened in Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool with locals not allowed to leave until 30 July unless they work in essential jobs, with the premier announcing there were only exceptions for workers in health and emergency services.

But later on Saturday the list was expanded considerably to include retail workers in shops permitted to open as well as teachers and freight drivers, among others.

The premier defended the late amendments to the health order amid reports of confusion.

“We need to make sure we rely firstly on the health advice…but that also involves making sure there are supply chains, food supply, all those things that keep us going,” she said. 

“It would be irresponsible of us to exclude people who need to get around…and make sure they are providing essential food and services.”

Workers from those three LGAs who do need to leave the area for work will have to take a COVID-19 test every three days.

From Sunday, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and few other retailers across Greater Sydney will be allowed to open and will have to operate with ‘click and collect’ or takeaway.

All office workers and others working from home should not be pressured to go into work, with employers to potentially incur a $10,000 fine if they push staff to attend.

Sydneysiders have also been instructed not to carpool with anyone.

The premier said she would not rule further “tweaks” to the restrictions to ensure potential risks have not been missed.

From Monday, impacted businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to $1,500 through Service NSW.

Treasurer Dominic Perrotet urged calm and patience from business owners promising grants would be processed within three days.

NSW Police have reiterated people breaching public health orders could face stiff penalties after three COVID-positive removalists were found to have travelled from Greater Sydney to Molong in regional NSW.

“Police found the behaviour from these three people to be particularly disturbing,” Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys told reporters.

“Despite the best health advice, they continued on their journey. They left their home in Greater Sydney and put significant risk on the people in regional NSW.” 

The three gentlemen have been issued with court attendance notice and could face a maximum penalty of $11,000 or six months jail.

“There is a strong sense that country people simply will not tolerate this sort of behaviour and they feel it puts them at great risk,” Mr Warboys said.

Additional reporting: AAP

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