University of Melbourne epidemiologist Antony Blakely has told the state parliament inquiry into the NSW government’s response to the pandemic that Sydney may need to stay in a form of lockdown until November.
As reported in SMH
“There’s no way NSW is going to be able to go back to a stage one [of restrictions] … any time between now and November at the earliest,” Professor Blakely says.
“We’re going to have to live with some level of restrictions for the next 100 days.” He says it’s a trade-off between eased restrictions and how much we let the virus “get ahead of us”. “[That] does mean letting go of the idea that NSW is going to eliminate and get down to zero before the rest of country is at 70 to 80 per cent [of population vaccinated],” he says. “But it won’t need to be a hard lockdown all the way through to Christmas.”
But Professor Blakely says Christmas could be “quite nice” with higher vaccination rates and lower transmission. “And we take a break before we reopen to the rest of the world and we have a nice summer,” he says.
Meanwhile Australian National University epidemiologist Peter Collignon says we will need some level of restrictions across Australia until at least April next year.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian last week said Sydney could start to emerge from lockdown once half of NSW adults were vaccinated, despite Doherty Institute modelling for the federal government nominating 70 to 80 per cent.
Dr Chant indicated she believed that vaccine rates needed to much higher than the Premier’s 50 per cent target.
“I can’t speak for the Premier, but certainly, I’m very committed to the issues around getting our vaccine coverage up, but very much recognise that we need that 70 per cent,” Dr Chant said.
“Clearly the Premier had used a target, but the Premier is also well versed with the Doherty report and its contents and the implications.”
Mr Hazzard says Ms Berejiklian was trying to provide hope when she spoke about easing lockdown restrictions in Sydney when vaccination rates hit 50 per cent.
“I think it’s fair to say that the Premier is trying to give a sense of hope to the community and trying to drive up also vaccinations,” Mr Hazzard said.
Dr Chant said she expected more than 50 per cent of the state to be vaccinated by the end of August.
“I am actually optimistic that at the end of August we are going to have a higher than 50 per cent first dose coverage,” Dr Chant said.
Key points from NSW inquiry
Here’s a wrap of the key points from the state parliament inquiry into the NSW government’s response to COVID-19, which has just ended.
- NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant says she formally advised government to go with a Greater Sydney lockdown on June 25, a day before it came into effect.
- NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard regularly interjected and spoke over Dr Chant, accusing the committee of wasting his and her time while he dodged questions.
- Mr Hazzard won’t release the advice provided to crisis cabinet because it was confidential.
- Dr Chant says the government perhaps didn’t appreciate the risks of the Hoxton Park party as a smaller lockdown in south-east Sydney worked to contain the spread.
- Health experts say it’s clear in hindsight the NSW government didn’t go hard enough, fast enough.
- They’ve told the inquiry the chances of NSW eliminating the virus are now slight and restrictions will be needed for the next 100 days.
- Dr Chant says it’s too premature to talk about easing restrictions even as the government keeps pointing to the August 28 deadline when the lockdown is currently scheduled to end.
When will Sydney’s lockdown end? Well, it depends who you ask