NSW authorities have extended the lockdown for at least another week as they try to contain a Delta variant outbreak after detecting 27 new cases in New South Wales, up from 18 a day before.
Stay-at-home restrictions have already been in effect in Sydney for two weeks, excluding essential shopping and medical care.
Four major Australian cities — Brisbane, Perth, Darwin, and Sydney had all been placed under lockdown. For people living in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, and the local government regions of Wollongong and Shellharbour, the lockdown has been extended until July 17.
“This Delta strain is a game-changer. It’s extremely transmissible,” said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
“It must be eradicated from the community. We don’t want to be in a position where we constantly have to move between lockdown, no lockdown, lockdown, no lockdown.”
Berejiklian said an extension “was the best chance of making sure this is the only lockdown we have until the vast majority of our citizens are vaccinated.”
“Face-to-face learning will resume in regional NSW when school returns on Tuesday, July 13,” Ms Gladys Berejiklian said.
“Learning will be online for schools and students in Greater Sydney from Tuesday, July 13, for four days. Schools will remain open for students who need them, and no child will be turned away from school.
“All students will return to the classroom on Monday, July 19. Our first and foremost priority is to protect the health and safety of the community.
“The Delta strain requires a different response to previous outbreaks, and until the majority of our population is vaccinated, we cannot live as freely as we would like to.”
“We would like to thank the community and businesses for their patience and understanding during this time.
“In days to come, the NSW Government will detail a plan for exiting from restrictions to give the community and businesses certainty in the coming weeks and months.”
Aden Levin, Co-Founder and Director Viral Ventures said: “The extension of the lockdown is terrible news for many businesses within the hospitality and events industry.
“After having just started to get back on our feet, the restrictions leave staff unable to work, many customers who had booked tickets to our experiences having to rearrange or get refunded and it’s a huge blow to the business.
“While we hope the restrictions don’t continue to hinder our business, we do feel that this may be the case until the state is heavily vaccinated.”
Retailers call for urgent support
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) anticipated the cost of another Greater Sydney lockdown extension to be around $3 billion for the retail industry.
According to ARA CEO Paul Zahra, the announcement about the lockdown extension is a bitter blow for small businesses in particular, who are fighting for survival without a JobKeeper safety net.
“Whilst we are supportive of the NSW Government’s efforts to keep the community safe, we can’t ignore the devastating impacts this lockdown is having on retailers and small businesses in particular,” Mr Zahra said.
“This lockdown is now set to cost around $3 billion in lost retail trade, which is just not sustainable without adequate support measures in place for businesses and their staff.
“We have grave concerns for smaller retailers in the CBD, who were already crippled by the ongoing Covid impacts before this latest outbreak, with low office populations and a lack of tourists contributing to sluggish trade throughout the pandemic.
“While some businesses can stay open through the current restrictions, the reality is people are not going to the shops in their usual numbers, and many businesses have decided it’s not worth the trouble of opening their doors at all.”
Mr Zahra said there needs to be an expansion of existing support measures from the Federal and State Governments to help impacted businesses and staff.
“The Federal Government has activated Covid disaster payments, but this is only available for people who live and work in hotspot areas, and there are many more in regional areas of NSW that are missing out,” Mr Zahra said.
“Whilst we are grateful for the business support grants and payroll tax deferrals from the NSW Government, this doesn’t go far enough to compensate the downturn businesses will suffer during a three-week lockdown.
“We certainly hope this lockdown doesn’t go on for longer than is necessary. This once again highlights how important it is to expedite Australia’s Covid vaccination program, and the retail community stands ready to support this effort in any way it can.”
Meanwhile, Ian Yip, CEO of Avertro said: “Continued lockdowns and the failure of our vaccine rollout relative to the rest of the developed world presents a real challenge to technology businesses such as ours.
“The lack of mobility as a result of these constraints significantly hampers our growth plans, particularly internationally where being able to travel unlocks real potential for us on the global stage.
“The government has provided little to no support to the startup ecosystem.
“While there is an ongoing narrative in the latest lockdown extensions about how much collaboration there has been between the government and industry, that has largely been with corporations.
Startups are essentially having to fend for ourselves through the current situation.”