The NSW Government will not consider a second shutdown of pubs, clubs and restaurants unless daily COVID-19 cases hit 100.
That’s the tip-off from Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clennell, who said: “I am reliably told that such closures are just not on the agenda at the moment, but if figures were to get to around 100 new cases a day then that would be happening.
“So NSW businesses and everyone from the PM and Treasurer down need to hope that’s not the case.”
Earlier this week, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned the state is at a “critical point” in the pandemic.
“If we get through the next three or four weeks the way we have we will be able to have medium to long term surety that NSW can keep moving forward but if we slide backwards that means all of us will need to face situations we shouldn’t have to,” she said.
Following the premier’s comments, a senior minister told The Sydney Morning Herald that NSW could be facing a targeted lockdown situation, with “predominantly pubs and restaurants” in the firing line.
Several ministers said Environment Minister Matt Kean was the most staunch advocate for a full second shutdown.
“Matt is really the only [one] pushing a full-scale shutdown and he has been pretty open about that,” a minister said.
NSW has already announced tighter restrictions on venues and “higher risk” activities.
The new restrictions limit group bookings to a maximum of 10 people, require businesses to have COVID-Safe plans and register as a COVID-safe businesses and require a digital record of all visitors.
Speaking on 2GB, Dominic Perrottet said a Victorian-style lockdown would cause economic chaos in NSW.
“I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that (a second lockdown) doesn’t happen,” he said.
“We can’t afford the cure to be worse than the disease. There’s a lot of businesses out there who are doing it tough.”
Fears Melbourne could be locked down until Christmas
There are reports Melbourne could be in lockdown until Christmas as Victoria struggles to bring COVID-19 cases under control.
According to The Australian, the possibility of restrictions lasting many months has been discussed at the highest levels of government.
Asked about whether a lockdown until Christmas was feasible, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Today: “I don’t want to put a time frame on it, respectfully.”
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp told Today: “We know that of the hospitality businesses we’ve surveyed, about 45% of them are closed. And of that number, about 7% have already decided they won’t reopen.
“So the longer this goes on, the more dire that situation is.”
Health expert calls for seven-day shutdown
Epidemiologist at UNSW and Advisor to the World Health Organisation Infection Control and Prevention Guidance Development Group for COVID-19, Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, wants NSW venues shut down for seven days.
“Most of the cases seem to be associated with clubs and sadly I would be thinking of requiring people to wear a face mask or face shield – but it’s not why they go to clubs, they go to talk, eat and drink,” she said.
“But they are the focal point for people to meet – particularly in outer suburbs and regions. The social venues are an important part of life and seem to have been in the middle of July, a super spreading opportunity because the virus loves people having social times inside.
“You would have to think about shutting them down for a week.
“It’s not the social venue that causes the spread, it’s the people coming with the infection to socialise in that spot. If you take that away from them and they stay at home and you don’t give them an alternative, there’s less of an outbreak.
“People who go to clubs regularly know a lot of people and are hyper-connected socially.”
The cost of shutdown
KPMG chief economist Brendan Rynne told ABC News about 95,000 jobs in NSW could be directly impacted by a second round of harsher restrictions.
“The best guide to understanding what the cost will be is to really look at what happened during the first lockdown and use that as pretty much a proxy for what we would anticipate to occur,” he said.
“From about the middle of April, employment’s really started to gather some positive momentum upwards.
“Thursday’s ABS [Australian Bureau of Statistics] labour force data showed about 81,000 new jobs were filled in New South Wales in the month alone between May and June.
“Going into a second lockdown is probably going to impact about 95,000 jobs in NSW that have come back on [since April], and those 95,000 jobs in fact create about $2.5 billion worth of gross state product each quarter.
“Despite the best intentions of people working from home, there are still many parts of the economy that can’t do that, and so when you actually have to turn the lights off and stop working, economic activity just grinds to a halt.”