Covid 19 coronavirus: Why Sydneys lockdown isnt driving down cases

NSW Chief Health officer Dr Kerry Chant has responded to questions over NSW’s lockdown response, which has failed to reduce the state’s rise in cases despite two weeks of restrictions.

Images of Sydneysiders out enjoying the sun last weekend suggested the state capital had grown complacent about the spread of the Delta strain. According to NSW police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys, 106 infringement notices were handed out by NSW Police for a number of gatherings across the city overnight.

Despite the clear indifference shown by some sections of the community, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian praised Sydneysiders for their adherence to the government’s stringent restrictions, which included a controversial move to up the police presence in southwest Sydney.

However, the figures released on Sunday suggest Sydney’s lockdown isn’t working as intended. So why are the stay-at-home measures not driving transmission down?

Because 50 of Sunday’s 77 cases were contracted in the same household as a positive case and not out gallivanting.

Chant said family transmission is driving current case numbers, confirming officials were still “identifying unrecognised cases within households in south-western Sydney”. On that information, Berejiklian admitted that she’d be “shocked” to see less that 100 new cases come Monday morning.

“I think it’s going to be a number of days before we turn around. And to some extent, we’re trying. The numbers might actually increase because we’re ramping up testing to get ahead of the transmission curve,” Chant said of household transmission on Sunday.

“That’s the general impact of the lockdown. What you’re trying to do is decrease the mobility of the population overall, decrease opportunities for your interactions one person to another and then basically slow the spread of the disease more broadly. What we’re observing in south-western Sydney is really why it’s been amplified, because of the close interactions of households.”

NSW Health reported 48,754 tests were conducted over the past 24 hours, at a positive rate of around 0.15 per cent.

The situation looks dire for anybody relying on lockdown restrictions lifting to earn a living.

The Premier refused to answer questions about Friday’s lockdown deadline, strongly hinting restrictions would remain in place for far longer than the government currently has on paper.

As if dog squads, mounted units and a bolstered police presence wasn’t enough, Melbourne-based epidemiologist Tony Blakely, who is regularly cited in Australian media, suggested NSW bring in the military to ensure the state complies with lockdown restrictions.

And that’s not to mention the obvious economic and social impact extended lockdowns have on the community.

The widespread impact of lockdowns

At the beginning of the pandemic, world leaders participated in a chaotic Covid merry-go-round, collating data from each other’s virus responses and citing them as relevant evidence for their own decision making.

Initially, an extended lockdown appeared to be the most effective way to stamp out the virus, which became the single biggest issue thrust upon Aussies from March 2020. A 24-hour news cycle, rabid reader interest and politicians’ undeniable appetite for screen time has kept Covid-19 at the forefront of public consciousness.

Eighteen months on, with just 910 recorded coronavirus deaths, an argument could still be made for the success of Australia’s lockdowns. The country has not nearly been hit as hard as the rest of the world in terms of the direct impact of the airborne disease.

However, the full list of long-term implications are still yet to be seen.

Speaking on ABC Insiders, Leader of the Autralian Opposition Anthony Albanese said he received a call from a local business owner, who was in tears over having to axe staff due to the lack of business from the city’s lockdown.

For some, three weeks is all it takes for a carefully built business to hit dire straits. With the state’s Premier unwilling to provide concrete information on the length of the current lockdown period, it appears certain that thousands across the state will be stuck in financial limbo.

And when the time comes, on the whim of a select few decision-makers, for those businesses, casual workers and contractors to attempt to rebuild from their losses, they will be told to “pick themselves up by the bootstraps” and continue to trust their politicians to work for them.

A thought must also be spared for those who actually took the initiative to get vaccinated, and are still forced to stay at home and bleed their savings.

Additionally, experts have already begun to detect worrying mental health trends brought about by lockdowns.

As seen in a study conducted by Monash University, a whopping 1 in 10 people surveyed admitted to considering suicide while in Victoria’s 112-day stay at home order midway through 2020, which left Melbourne’s hub of artists, live events co-ordinators and venues among others hanging on a cliff’s edge.

The study revealed young adults, unpaid caregivers, people with disabilities, and people with diagnosed psychiatric or sleep conditions are at increased risk of adverse mental health symptoms.

Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Institute said the data aligned with recent studies into mental health in Australia’s youth. Professor Hickie said the obvious side-effects of extended lockdowns were undeniable despite them being crucial in Australia’s fight against the global pandemic.

“Sadly it does reflect the fact that although we were spared the worst of the health crisis in Australia, the social and economic impacts have been profound, and they’re ongoing, they’re not limited to the lockdown period,” he said via the ABC.

“Most of the evidence we have, particularly for young people, is that these rates were increasing pre-Covid. They then went up markedly in the first Covid lockdown, and then subsequently in terms of emergency department presentations and really serious attempts at self-harm or suicide.”

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