Australia sends army to Sydney's poorest neighbourhoods to enforce strict Covid lockdown

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Sydney’s poorest neighbourhoods on Friday braced for military enforcement of the citywide lockdown after infection numbers failed to drop. 

New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said eight districts – where most new cases have been reported – needed an increased military presence because people were taking too long to get tested after developing symptoms.  

‘We are seeing more families coming in with a family member who is presenting not alive, but dead’, he said.  

Hazzard also urged migrant communities who may be wary of the government to come forward to testing. ‘We are here to support you and our health system is here to support you’, he said. 

Steve Christou, mayor of Sydney district Cumberland where 60 per cent of its 240,000 residents were born overseas, said bringing in the military was a ‘last resort’. 

He said lawmakers were ‘lost for answers’ on the issues created by migrant communities, but did not provide details. 

‘They are a poor community, they are a vulnerable community, and they don’t deserve these lockdowns or these extended and harsh measures that they have now been targeted with,’ he added in a telephone interview.

Sydney's poorest neighbourhoods on Friday braced for military enforcement of the citywide lockdown after infection numbers failed to drop

Sydney’s poorest neighbourhoods on Friday braced for military enforcement of the citywide lockdown after infection numbers failed to drop

New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said eight districts - where most new cases have been reported - would seen an increase police and military presence

New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said eight districts – where most new cases have been reported – would seen an increase police and military presence

Health Minister Hazzard said people were taking too long to get tested after developing Covid-19 symptoms and urged migrant communities wary of the government to come forward

Health Minister Hazzard said people were taking too long to get tested after developing Covid-19 symptoms and urged migrant communities wary of the government to come forward

From Monday, some 300 Australian army personnel will help police door-knock people who have tested positive to the virus to ensure they are isolating, New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller said at a televised news conference. 

The amped-up military and police presence will cover the breadth of the city but focus on eight regions were most new cases are being reported. 

News South Wales reported 170 new local cases yesterday, most of them in the capital Sydney.

That number was down from a record 239 on Wednesday, but at least 42 of the new infections spent time in the community while infectious.   

While new cases fell, state premier Gladys Berejiklian said the high number of infectious people in the community meant ‘we are expecting to see those numbers bounce around’. 

The map indicates the eight local government areas where Covid-19 is transmitting the most rapidly. New South Wales has recorded another 239 cases of the highly-contagious Delta variant of the virus

The map indicates the eight local government areas where Covid-19 is transmitting the most rapidly. New South Wales has recorded another 239 cases of the highly-contagious Delta variant of the virus

Thursday's spike in cases is the highest increase the state has recorded in one day in the entire pandemic

Thursday’s spike in cases is the highest increase the state has recorded in one day in the entire pandemic

Since the outbreak began with an unmasked, unvaccinated airport driver last month, NSW has reported 13 deaths, taking the national total to 923 since the pandemic began. 

The epicentre of the outbreak has crossed Sydney from the affluent beachside suburb of Bondi to the western suburbs, where local leaders said residents felt unfairly targeted by the heightened enforcement. 

People living in the western suburbs must stay within 5 km (3 miles) of home and have a virus test every three days in order to be allowed to do essential work outside the area.

Already police have been given sweeping new powers to close businesses breaking rules. Military officers won’t be armed and will be under police command, police commissioner Fuller said on Friday. 

They will also aim to work with community leaders on enforcement strategies, he said.

An emergency Covid cabinet of state and federal leaders meanwhile began a regular meeting on Friday, with plans to discuss exit strategies from the pandemic – widely expected to centre around getting more people vaccinated.

Australia's 'zero Covid' strategy has kept the country's case and death tolls among the lowest in the world, but has plunged the country into repeated brutal lockdowns

Australia’s ‘zero Covid’ strategy has kept the country’s case and death tolls among the lowest in the world, but has plunged the country into repeated brutal lockdowns

Australia has seen a total of just 34,000 Covid cases and 918 deaths from the virus, but has been through more than a dozen lockdowns this year alone

Australia has seen a total of just 34,000 Covid cases and 918 deaths from the virus, but has been through more than a dozen lockdowns this year alone

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday Australia would reopen its borders when 80 per cent of the population was fully vaccinated. 

But the announcement sketched a long road out of ‘Fortress Australia’ as only 14 per cent of the population are fully jabbed – meaning 66 per cent still need two vaccines before virus restrictions can end.

It is one of a series of targets unveiled by Morrison intended to end the pandemic in Australia a year-and-a-half after the country cocooned itself from the rest of the pandemic-ravaged world. 

In March 2020, Australia took the unprecedented step of almost entirely closing its borders to foreign visitors and banning its globetrotting citizens from leaving.

Sixteen months and several lockdowns on, there are currently around six million Australians under stay-at-home orders – most residing in Covid-hit Sydney – as authorities battle to get back to ‘Covid zero.’

Hoping to give restriction-weary Australians some prospect of a return to normality, Morrison set out a series of targets for the gradual easing of restrictions. 

The conservative prime minister indicated that when 70 percent of eligible adults have received two doses, vaccinated residents will have more freedom from domestic restrictions and a limited number of international students and economic visa holders will be allowed to enter the country.

‘I believe we can get there by the end of the year,’ Morrison said, without setting a firm target date. 

When 80 percent of eligible adults have been fully jabbed, vaccinated Australians will again be allowed to travel to safe countries overseas.

Borders will also be reopened to citizens from safe countries who have received one of the vaccines approved by Australian regulators, and mandatory two-week hotel quarantine requirements will be eased. 

Morrison – who faces reelection within the year – avoided setting a timeframe for the targets, insisting it would depend on when Australians choose to get vaccinated.

‘The timelines are now in the hands of all Australians,’ Morrison said.

The country’s glacial vaccine rollout has been beset by government missteps, an acute shortage of Pfizer vaccines and scepticism about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine – which Australia has in large amounts and produces domestically.

‘Every single vaccine will take us closer to achieving each of these steps,’ Morrison said. 

‘As Australians, we have to take each step together. And that starts with walking in the door of that vaccine clinic.’

Morrison's  announcement sketches a long road out of 'Fortress Australia' as only 14 per cent of the population are fully jabbed - meaning 66 per cent still need two vaccines before virus restrictions can end

Morrison’s  announcement sketches a long road out of ‘Fortress Australia’ as only 14 per cent of the population are fully jabbed – meaning 66 per cent still need two vaccines before virus restrictions can end

Australia will reopen its borders when 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday, despite on 14 per cent having had two jabs already

Australia will reopen its borders when 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday, despite on 14 per cent having had two jabs already

Border closures have prompted the first population decline since World War I and tens of thousands of Australian citizens have been stranded overseas.

While hundreds of thousands of Australian residents remain separated from family overseas. 

As the pandemic drags on, there are growing concerns about the impact of prolonged restrictions that have kept the country largely Covid-free.

There are also growing fears that Sydney’s prolonged lockdown – now in its fifth week and expected to last until the end of August – could send Australia into a second recession in as many years.

In early 2020, the global Covid slowdown helped tip Australia’s already teetering economy into its first recession in three decades.

Before the latest Sydney outbreak, the recovery had been quicker than expected, with GDP passing pre-pandemic levels.   

Borders will also be reopened to citizens from safe countries who have received one of the vaccines approved by Australian regulators, and mandatory two-week hotel quarantine requirements will be eased once 80 per cent of the population is double jabbed

Borders will also be reopened to citizens from safe countries who have received one of the vaccines approved by Australian regulators, and mandatory two-week hotel quarantine requirements will be eased once 80 per cent of the population is double jabbed

There are currently around six million Australians under stay-at-home orders - most residing in Covid-hit Sydney - as authorities battle to get back to 'Covid zero'

There are currently around six million Australians under stay-at-home orders – most residing in Covid-hit Sydney – as authorities battle to get back to ‘Covid zero’

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