Australia’s biggest city brought to a halt by an invisible invader

Tradies across Greater Sydney have downed tools after construction sites shut down for two weeks as tough new COVID-19 restrictions begin.

Jul 19, 2021, updated Jul 19, 2021
Worksites across Sydney have been abandoned. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Worksites across Sydney have been abandoned. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

It’s the first time the construction industry has been shut anywhere in Australia since the pandemic began and state Labor is calling on the federal government to re-introduce JobKeeper to help businesses and workers survive the harsher measures announced on Saturday.

Labor says the move will cost the NSW economy at least $700 million per week and affect at least 250,000 workers.

People living in Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are in the fourth week of a lockdown after the government imposed a raft of new restrictions, including the ban on all construction work, the closure of non-essential retail outlets not including supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and liquor stores.

The situation is little better in Victoria, where Premier Dan Andrews has announced that state’s lockdown would extend beyond its previously scheduled end of midnight on Tuesday after 12 more locally acquired COVID cases were detected overnight.

He said an announcement on a new end date for the lockdown wold be made on Tuesday after health offical studied the latest data on the current outbreak.

“This is by no means over, we are running alongside this virus but we are not yet in front of it,” he said.

“We’ve got a containment line, we’re making significant progress but it’s not out yet.”

Today, NSW has recorded 98 new local cases of COVID-19 and 37 people were circulating in the community during some or all of their infectious period.

The cases were diagnosed from 75,845 tests carried out in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was “really keen to nudge” the number of circulating cases downward.

“We need to get ahead of that number in order to reduce the number of cases in the community to zero,” she said on Monday.

The premier has warned there could be a lag of between five or six days until the number of COVID-19 cases begins to drop, after the government introduced tough new restrictions.

Public transport has been scaled back and is now operating on a Sunday timetable, while stay-at-home orders have been tightened in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool areas with locals not allowed to leave until July 30 – unless they are essential workers.

It’s estimated the tougher measures have left around 600,000 people without work.

Federal MP for Lakemba Jihad Dib, whose constituents live in the epicentre of the outbreak in Sydney’s southwest where the toughest measures are in place, says people are feeling frustrated and confused by the constantly changing health orders.

“I spent most of the weekend dealing with people who are trying to come to terms with the fact that they’ve lost their livelihood .. (who are wondering) how they are going to manage to put food on the table,” he told ABC radio.

He is encouraging his constituents to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha on Friday at home, saying mosques will have online services and extended family gatherings will have to be virtual.

“It will be different but it comes down to that point that for the greater good we need to do this. It’s a small sacrifice to make for the benefit of everybody.”

Australian Constructors Association CEO Jon Davies said the NSW building industry had been blindsided by the shutdown of the industry, saying it was “excessive and completely unnecessary”.

“We’re probably one of the best-managed industries from a COVID perspective,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Monday.

The ban covers brickies, glaziers, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, landscapers, painters plasterers and labourers who can only perform emergency maintenance.

Davies wants the government to come up with an industry support package.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says there could be a lag of between five or six days until the number of COVID-19 cases begins to drop as a result of the latest lockdown restrictions.

Meanwhile, a second mass vaccination hub has opened at Belmont in Lake Macquarie, with the capacity to vaccinate 20,000 people a week.

NSW Police say they will be targeting Sydney beaches to ensure compliance, with “high-visibility” patrols at Manly Beach, Bondi Beach and other coastal areas to ensure social distancing while people exercise.

Sydney residents are now required to carry a face mask when out of their homes and to wear them when appropriate.

NSW recorded 105 new virus cases and the death of a woman in her 90s in Sydney’s southeast on Sunday. The woman is the fourth to die in the current outbreak.

Some 27 people had been infectious while in the community.

“That’s the number that worries us the most, we’ve seen that number crop up day in and day out,” Berejiklian said.


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