Analysts are predicting this Boxing Day sales’ spend to break even more economic records – but it could come with a dire cost.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Christmas Day made a desperate plea to her state: think twice before heading to Sydney’s CBD.
Her comments were backed by health officials, and come as concerns grow about a potential cluster in the city’s centre.
- See the full list of NSW Health COVID-19 exposure sites here
There are three confirmed COVID-19 cases from the CBD.
“We are concerned about people who may have been infectious who went to work in the CBD and then have passed that onto other people in the CBD and those people have then passed it on in their communities,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Now, as Australians gear up to spend some $2.75 billion in the Boxing Day sales – an amount retailers desperately need – there are concerns it could turn into a superspreader event for Sydney.
Ms Berejiklian made the difficult decision on Friday to ask shoppers to avoid the CBD.
“We know this is not the easiest message to give to those retailers, but we want to discourage people going to the CBD [on Saturday],” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We have been in contact with retailers to make sure there is a social distancing and … all people and staff and people shopping should be wearing a mask inside those venues.”
— Gladys Berejiklian (@GladysB) December 25, 2020
Sydney has not mandated masks in public, in shops, or on public transport.
Since the northern beaches cluster appeared two weeks ago, health experts have voiced their worries that the timing of Christmas and New Year’s Eve could spark an out-of-control spread of the virus, with Sydney at the epicentre.
Ms Berejiklian has maintained the city’s famous fireworks displays on December 31 will go ahead.
“The actual display itself, the seven minutes of fireworks at midnight, will be happening no matter what,” she said earlier this week.
“But I’ll certainly be watching it from home and we encourage everybody else to do that as well.”
Health officials have pleaded with the Premier to cancel the event altogether – even with her saying frontline workers would be given access to prime vantage points.
Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws told the ABC she believed the NSW government was playing the emotive approach to restrictions, because of the time of year and all the traditions that come with it.
“I understand mental health. I understand that we are all really excited about the Christmas break … it’s a time to come together,” Professor McLaws said.
“But this is also an accelerant time, New Year’s Eve as well … we do not want an acceleration [of the virus] further into Greater Sydney.
“The way it is at the moment, we don’t know how many more cases are incubating out there, so we don’t want to add fuel to this potential fire.”
UNSW Professor Raina MacIntyre told The New Daily earlier this week that anyone who contracted coronavirus on or around Christmas Day would be at their most infectious at New Year’s Eve.
“The 25th of December and the 31st of December are the biggest social events of the year in our country,” Professor MacIntyre said.
“Anyone who gets infected on Christmas Day will be at the peak of their infectiousness on New Year’s Eve because of the incubation period.”