NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has blasted claims the embattled state could live with the Delta COVID variant, warning of “devastating” social and economic consequences.
NSW recorded 44 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, in what the Premier has described as one of the state’s “scariest” days.
Also read: New Covid restrictions as NSW cases surge
Announcing strengthened restrictions, she noted that 43 people are now hospitalised with the virus, with 10 in the intensive care unit and four on ventilators. Around 14,000 people have been listed as close contacts.
“Please acknowledge we cannot live with this when the vaccination rate is only 9 per cent,” she told reporters on Friday morning.
Her words come after NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard suggested the state will need to end the lockdown and let the virus circulate through the community if residents failed to observe the COVID restrictions.
However, Berejiklian said letting the Delta variant spread will “subject thousands and thousands of people to hospitalisation and death”, while the economic impact will also be “devastating”.
“If you think you can live with this and it goes wild in the community, nobody will be going to a restaurant or a bar. When there are thousands and thousands of cases, thousands of deaths, no-one will want to leave their home.
“So I want to stress that the economic impact of trying to live with this is as severe as the health impact.
“And we know the businesses would much prefer… we stayed in lockdown until we need to so that we can have confidence that once we come out of lockdown, not only can we be assured of our health safety but also be assured of economics and business continuity.”
The lockdown is expected to cost Sydney around $1.5 billion a week, according to Australian National University economics professor Quentin Grafton.
However Berejiklian said the government’s response was equally weighed to consider the economic and health costs.
“Health and safety is always obviously top of mind because if you don't address the health and safety, you cannot address the economic consequences, but we understand and appreciate the economic consequences.”
Businesses are eligible for support of up to $10,000 for those with 70 per cent falls in turnover, $7,000 for 50 per cent drops and $5,000 for 30 per cent declines.
“The current restrictions are in place to protect people and keep the community safe; unfortunately, businesses continue to incur costs such as rent, power and lost produce, and this will go some way to lessening that financial pain,” Berejiklian said last week.