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‘Critical time’: Doctors warn of ‘reckless’ NSW reopening

(Source: Getty)
(Source: Getty)

Australia’s peak association of doctors have voiced concerns that updates to the NSW roadmap “potentially sidelin[es] public health advice” in favour of kicking the state economy into gear.

NSW’s newly installed Premier, Dominic Perrottet, yesterday fronted the press to announce tweaks to the roadmap out of lockdown, including doubling the number of visitors allowed in homes and caps on weddings and funerals.

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Australian Medical Association President Dr Omar Khorshid said the association supported “gradual” reopening, but that its impacts on COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalisations needed to be closely monitored despite high vaccination levels.

“The ultimate outcomes of opening too fast or too early will be avoidable deaths and the reintroduction of lockdowns and other restrictions – things no one in NSW wants to see,” Khorshid said.

“Economic recovery cannot occur without protecting the health of the community – this is a lesson we have already learnt during this pandemic, and it must not be forgotten in the reopening phase.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 06: NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet attends a press conference at Government House on October 06, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Dominic Perrottet has become the 46th premier of NSW following the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian while new NSW Nationals leader Paul Toole has become deputy premier, replacing John Barilaro. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has become the 46th premier of NSW following the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images) (Lisa Maree Williams via Getty Images)

Dr Kerry Chant, who has been a steadfast presence beside former Premier Gladys Berejiklian throughout most of the pandemic, was notably absent during Perrottet’s announcement yesterday. The new Premier has also changed the name of NSW Government’s Crisis Cabinet to the Economic Recovery Committee.

Khorshid said the two moves were “strongly” suggestive that health advice was no longer guiding the NSW Government’s decision.

“NSW must not be reckless at this critical time,” Khorshid said.

“If the NSW ‘COVID and Economic Recovery Committee’ moves to open the economy faster than is advised by health experts and the modelling, they will ultimately be held accountable for the impacts of those decisions.”

Potential consequences include preventable deaths, overwhelmed hospitals, and an “economic catastrophe” that would come from further lockdowns.

The state’s reopening must be done “wisely and cautiously”, the doctor’s association President added, with time to assess each stage before moving onto the next one.

“To do otherwise risks far too much.”

Rumours Perrottet didn’t have Dr Kerry Chant’s support

NSW on Wednesday hit the highly anticipated 70 per cent double-vaccinated milestone, meaning Australia’s most populous state is well on its way to ‘freedom day’ on Monday 11 October.

At the announcement yesterday, Perrottet was grilled about whether his new roadmap had NSW Health’s support.

"Yes they have endorsed it," he said.

"Dr Chant and the health team are members of the crisis cabinet and will continue to also be members of the subcommittee moving forward.”

But Former Labor Minister Stephen Conroy claimed that it was “absolutely clear cut” that the new Premier’s roadmap did not have the chief health officer’s support.

“He doesn’t even let her turn up to a press conference anymore,” he told Sky News.

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