New South Wales “urgently” needs to put a “ring of steel” around Sydney to stop the Delta variant spreading across the country, epidemiologists have warned.
So far, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have both rejected calls to ring-fence Sydney.
The warning comes as Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly called for NSW to implement a “circuit breaker”, saying the “national” goal was zero COVID-19 cases.
“There’s no sense of (NSW) moving rapidly toward zero,” Professor Kelly said at a Friday evening press conference alongside Mr Morrison following a meeting of national cabinet.
“It’s clear there needs to be a circuit breaker,” he said.
When asked what type of circuit breaker NSW may need, Mr Morrison refused to wade into the debate, saying the federal government had offered “every support we have” to the state.
Ring of steel ‘urgently’ needed
On Friday, Ms Berejiklian said it was useless implementing a ring of steel around Sydney, as the coronavirus would still find a way out.
“Unless you have literally a police officer outside every single household … a ring of steel does not prevent Delta from seeping out,” she said.
Last month, the PM rejected calls by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews for Sydney to be ring-fenced to contain the spread of the virus.
“The only view that matters on this is the view of the New South Wales Premier because they are responsible for how they manage the lockdown in New South Wales,” he said.
But University of NSW epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws said a ring of steel around Sydney would help to stop the spread and protect regional areas.
“The ring of steel will stop the risk of Delta escaping. Not just from the hot spots, but you can’t predict where the cases are in greater Sydney,” Professor McLaws told The New Daily.
“It will help reduce it spreading to regional areas.”
Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole agreed, telling The New Daily Sydney needed to “urgently” implement a ring of steel and was risking the health of the rest of the nation by not doing so.
“They need one … it’s endangering the rest of the country and NSW, which should be their first priority,” Professor Toole said.
A ring of steel, coupled with rapid antigen testing (RAT) for workers, would help slow the spread of the virus in NSW, Professor McLaws said.
On Friday, Professor Kelly said rapid antigen testing in workplaces is “part of the solution in the future”, but Professor McLaws said they needed to be part of the solution now – especially for essential workers who are travelling around the country.
Vaccine rollout has ‘turned a corner’: PM
At Friday’s press conference, the PM said national cabinet had now “confirmed and fully agreed” on the four-phase roadmap out of the pandemic announced last week.
“That pathway takes us to the position where we live with this virus,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison also said the nation’s problem-plagued national vaccination program had “certainly turned a corner and challenges that we have had, we have been overcoming”.
“The rates of vaccination we are now achieving is now matching us, that were achieved in many countries around the world and that is what is needed to to get the job done,” he said.