News Coronavirus Sydney restrictions tightened with travel permits but still no ‘ring of steel’

Sydney restrictions tightened with travel permits but still no ‘ring of steel’

Watch: How to take care of your mental health in coronavirus lockdown.
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Greater Sydney residents will require a permit to leave the city and can no longer visit their holiday homes in a bid to stop people seeding outbreaks in other parts of the state.

The tighter restrictions announced after Friday afternoon’s National Cabinet crisis talks are designed to close loopholes and limit movement.

People who are required to self-isolate while awaiting COVID test results will also be paid $320 as a Victorian-style incentive to encourage them to stay at home.

Visiting a second home such as a holiday house will only be allowed under special circumstances such as maintenance and only one person will be able to attend.

Other new rules will apply in 12 local government areas of concern, including a requirement for people in singles bubbles to officially register their buddy who must live within 5km.

Residents in those areas are only allowed to leave their LGA for essential work.

The clamp down in Sydney comes as Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the nation was “clearly” in a third wave and as fears grow that other states could be infected by NSW.

NSW chalked up another grim record of 390 new local cases on Friday, while two people died from the disease taking the national toll to 948.

On Friday evening two more schools in Dubbo were shut down following COVID-19 cases as the spread of Delta in the regions causes “a big challenge” for health services.

Eight cases were recorded in Dubbo and two in Walgett until 8pm Friday night, but at least another fifteen people have tested positive to COVID since then.

More infections are expected in the coming days.

Buninyong Public School closed on Friday after a student tested positive, a NSW Department of Education spokesperson confirmed, and the Dubbo School of Distance Education also closed after a member of the school community returned a positive test.

“All staff and students are asked to self-isolate until they receive further advice.”

Dubbo West Public School and Orana Heights Public School in the area have already been closed for cleaning following COVID-19 exposure earlier in the week.

Inspectors will begin checking Sydney businesses for compliance. Photo: AAP

Meanwhile compliance checks will ramp up in NSW supermarkets over the weekend, with SafeWork NSW inspectors targeting retailers and specifically supermarkets from Saturday.

“Any business found breaking the rules may be subjected to fines and could face a closure,” Director of Compliance Dimitri Argeres said in a statement.

From Monday, the Australian Defence Force will send an additional 200 soldiers to NSW on top of 550 already assisting COVID-19 efforts.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have so far rejected calls for a “ring of steel” around Greater Sydney, with both calling on individuals to do the right thing.

“We saw the cases, up in northern NSW, where someone just doesn’t comply – look at the damage that causes,” the prime minister told reporters after the national cabinet meeting.

“We’ve got to do the right thing by each other. We’ve got to do the right thing by our neighbours, our communities, our city, our country.

“You can do that by following the rules, staying at home, getting vaccinated and getting tested.”

Ms Berejiklian on Friday scolded people who are “knowingly” breaking the rules and using the health orders as an excuse, after two COVID-positive women, aged 20 and 21, were charged for travelling from Sydney to the Hunter.

“People are saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t know’ … Most of the time that is not true. Let’s not pretend that people are doing the right thing,” she said.

The 19-year-old son of Zoran Radovanovic, 52, has also been charged after the duo from Rose Bay in Sydney’s east travelled to Byron Bay and sparked a lockdown in the NSW Northern Rivers.

 Melbourne will get there, but not yet

An epidemiologist believes it is unlikely Victoria will be ready to emerge from its sixth lockdown late next week and has recommended a more cautious exit than last time.

Victoria’s five-day moving case average is up to 17.4 and the effective reproduction rate is at 1.4, meaning currently every COVID-19 case is infecting almost one and a half people.

Professor Adrian Esterman, an epidemiologist and biostatistician at the University of South Australia, says Melbourne will get on top of its Delta variant outbreaks, but not by August 19 when the lockdown is due to end.

“I would say it’s highly unlikely,” he said on Friday.

“There is a couple of reasons. The effective reproduction number is still quite high — you want to see that get towards one to feel a bit more comfortable — and the moving average is still going up.

“I don’t think that lockdown will finish, if I was the Victorian government, until you’re in single digits and no mystery cases.”

The state has reported 13 mystery cases over the past three days, with about 20 per cent of all new local infections over that span not in isolation while infectious.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the three straight days of mystery cases filled him with anxiety and remained a particular concern.

“There are two stories here. For those identified chains of transmission, we are absolutely getting ahead. But every new mystery case we are chasing it,” he told reporters.

There is hope for Melbourne but it will take a bit more time. Photo: Getty

Australia’s largest shopping precinct at Chadstone Shopping Centre has been added as an exposure site. Check the latest locations here.

The state’s sixth lockdown was sparked by the emergence of mystery cases among Hobsons Bay and Maribyrnong residents, just over a week after restrictions were eased in Melbourne.

At the time, Prof Esterman thought the city came out of its fifth lockdown a week too early.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean to say that there’s cause and effect because you can just be unlucky,” he said.

“You have to remember that 80 per cent of infections are caused by 10 per cent of people. So the majority of the infected people only cause none or one infection.

“It’s pot luck if you’ve got a superspreader out there.”

This time around he suggests Victorian authorities wait until daily cases consistently remain below double digits before relaxing rules, predicting that could take another couple of weeks.

“I am optimistic cases will come down and Victoria will get there — unlike NSW,” Prof Esterman said.

“We know that the current lockdown and restrictions attached to it work. We saw it work in the fifth lockdown and we’ll see it work in this sixth one. It will just take a little while yet.”

His basic projection of the NSW outbreak, meanwhile, forecasts local cases in the state will hit roughly 1000 a day in about two weeks.