Sunday December 05, 2021

Nightmare in Sydney

July 15, 2021

It is proving to be an unfolding nightmare. For a government that had been beaming with pride at their Covid-19 contract tracing for months, insisting that people could live, consume and move about with freedom as health professionals wrapped themselves round the virus, the tune has changed. The Delta variant of the disease has proved viciously wily in Sydney, New South Wales. Admissions to intensive care units are growing. The first death has just been reported. The number of infections recorded on July 10: 50; the number the next day: 77.

Of concern are the numbers of people who were moving in the community during all or part of their infectious phase. Of the 50 reported cases on Saturday, 37 of those qualified. “That is the number we need to get down to as close as zero as possible,” stated an alarmed Premier Gladys Berejiklian. “The only conclusion we can draw from this is that things are going to get worse before they get better.”

The 11am press conferences are proving grim affairs tinged by panic. The questions asked are the same as those in other states in Australia where outbreaks took place. What are essential shopping items? How many people are permitted in your home? On each successive occasion, the Premier seemed panicked, even shrill. “Zero means zero!” she has stated at various points. “No visits!”

The most telling element behind the surge of cases is the blithe approach taken to the health orders by the citizenry of Australia’s largest city. This is understandable, given the erratic changes in Berejiklian’s approach to communicating health orders. With an almost manic insistence on keeping areas of the city open, she has confused rather than clarified, hoping that the virus might be contained within various local government areas (LGAs). Erin O’Leary, manager of a café in Newtown, noted in late June the distinct irony of having the front of her store in lockdown, and the back, not. Andrea Chapman, owner of a design store, had a few words of wisdom that might well be ringing in the ears of the Premier. “Sometimes you’ve just got to hit everyone hard and everyone sucks it up, then we can move on.”

The Premier has been the victim of her own success, telling Sydney residents and those in New South Wales that the state was that different from the rest of Australia. They were the ‘gold standard’ to be emulated by all in terms of containing the pandemic. On June 1, the often fawning Herald Sun from the Murdoch press stable praised the Berejiklian government for getting everything right where its Victorian counterpart had failed.

Excerpted: ‘Sydney Mockdown: The Delta Variant Strikes’