For many people from NSW’s Hunter and Newcastle regions, it has always been a question of when, not if, Sydney’s Delta outbreak would make it to their suburbs.
Almost one year since the area last had a COVID-19 case, eight local government areas were plunged into lockdown on Thursday night after several new cases, including five students, were recorded.
Singleton woman Louise Christenson, who owns the shop Worn out Wares, said anxiety levels in the town on the banks of the Hunter River were high.
“Everyone in town is really nervous and people have gone into a panic mode,” she said.
“We were starting to think that maybe we might be OK because we have really been doing everything we’ve been asked to do.
“But we did feel like with things ramping up in Sydney it was inevitable that something would come our way.”
Greater Sydney’s lockdown has punched a large hole in the city’s jobs market, with 5 per cent of its workforce wiped from business payrolls in a fortnight as fears grow the weakness will spill into the national economy.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data on Thursday showed the number of people on the state’s payrolls tumbled 4.4 per cent in the fortnight to July 17. There are now fewer people on NSW payrolls than in March last year before the first nationwide lockdown.
Since peaking in early June ahead of the current Sydney lockdown, the number of people on payrolls across the CBD and inner south has fallen by 7.6 per cent. The drop was 7.9 per cent in the inner south-west, 7.2 per cent in the inner west and 6.8 per cent in Parramatta.
Payrolls dropped 19 per cent over the fortnight in the NSW accommodation and food service sector and 18 per cent in recreation service businesses.
Victorian health authorities have added new exposure sites, including tier-1 (close contact) outlets at Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maribyrnong.
Among more than 20 new sites are the Lowes and Bad Workwear outlets in Highpoint for about an hour around midday on Saturday.
Other tier-1 sites include an auto parts store in Derrimut over multiple days, the Spectacle Hub optometrist in Caroline Springs over two days, a gym in Altona North and what looks like an abattoir or meat distribution site in Laverton North called Poultry Palace.
Additional dates for the Al-Taqwa school have also been added and the school now listed as a tier-1 exposure site from Monday to Wednesday this week between the 8.30am and 5pm.
Anyone who visited these venues at the specified times needs to get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days.
Another 20 or so tier-2 (casual contact) include Footscray Kmart on Sunday from 10.30am to noon and ALDI West Footscray on the same day.
You can see the full list here or view our map below.
NSW Health has issued new venue alerts. Anyone who attended the following locations or travelled on these bus routes is a close contact (tier 1) and must get tested and isolate for 14 days:
- Blacktown – Westpoint Food Court Level 1 – July 29 between 3pm and 5.30pm
- St Mary’s – Dr Lagaida General Practice – July 30 between 11.30am and 2.30pm; July 31 between 10am and 12.30pm
- Bus 470, from Martin Place Station to Camperdown, Pyrmont Bridge Rd on July 23 between 7.47am and 7.57am
- Bus 925, from Lidcombe Station to Chullora, TAFE South Western Sydney on July 23 between 12.12pm and 2.22pm
- Bus M92 from Chullora, Rookwood Rd to Lidcombe Station on July 23 between 5.20pm to 5.30pm
- Bus 470 from Central Station to Camperdown, Pyrmont Bridge Rd at Lyons Rd on July 24 between 9.12am and 9.21am
- Bus 415 from Strathfield Station to Belmore Shops on July 24 between 9.48am and 10.07am
- Bus 438X from Camperdown, Parramatta Rd before Lyons Road, to Central Station on July 24 between 10.44am and 10.51am
- Bus 415 from Strathfield Station to Belmore Shops on July 25 between 9.49am and 10.10am
- Bus 461X from Central Station to Camperdown, Parramatta Rd at Missenden Rd on July 26 between 8.01am and 8.07am
- Bus 438X from Central Station to Camperdown, Pyrmont Bridge Rd at Lyons Rd on July 26 between 11.07am to 11.13am
- Bus 438X from Camperdown, Parramatta Rd before Lyons Rd, to Central Station on July 27 between 7.46am and 7.57am
- Bus 438X from Camperdown, Parramatta Rd before Lyons Rd, to Central Station on July 27 between 11.37am and 11.43am
- Bus 461X from Central Station to Camperdown, Parramatta Rd at Missenden Rd on July 28 between 8.03am and 8.08am
There are also new casual contact (tier 2) venues and transport routes. Anyone on this list must immediately get tested and isolate until a negative result is received.
The full list is available here.
At the SPC Shepparton factory gates this afternoon, workers had been told to stay tight-lipped on the company’s new vaccination mandate, but a few agreed to chat on the condition of anonymity.
SPC, which produces canned goods alongside Ardmona and Goulburn Valley-branded products, announced this morning that its staff must be vaccinated by November and will not gain entry to any of its locations if they are not.
Most said they found out the news via the media this morning. A worker in his 20s said it felt like “a bit of a slap in the face”, particularly after a relatively recent period of uncertainty with Coca-Cola’s sale of the company.
“They went straight to the media and then we found out at the same time as the public,” he said.
“I’ve talked to a few people, and a lot of them want to leave because of [the mandate].”
A couple of people said they found out the news from management in an email on Thursday morning.
The worker in his 20s said he thought a lot of his colleagues were vaccinated, but they were annoyed by the choice being taken away from them.
Others also in their 20s were particularly concerned, he said, especially not yet being eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.
“So that really restricts us and is unfair for young ones, I think,” the worker said. “We don’t appreciate our options being restricted like this.”
Another worker echoed that sentiment, and said he was considering looking for other work now that vaccinations were going to be mandatory.
One worker said he was OK with the mandate and thought it would keep the community safe. He was yet to get vaccinated against COVID.
A growing number of Coalition MPs are speaking out against the use of vaccine certificates for domestic travel and attendance at venues and events, with at least two threatening to cross the floor if the government brings on legislation.
We revealed yesterday the government’s expenditure review committee of cabinet last week backed a proposal for QR code vaccination certificates for international travel, linking people’s vaccination status on their MyGov accounts with new digital certificates.
Victorian Liberal MP Russell Broadbent said while private companies were entitled to make whatever decisions they want, he felt many Australians would not support a mandatory system and would not rule out voting against the measure in parliament.
“I have to say I feel uncomfortable, really uncomfortable, about the use of vaccine passports being made mandatory for domestic travel,” he said.
Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz said while he encouraged everyone to consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible, “vaccine passports should not be a blunt instrument to force people to be vaccinated by locking them out of society”.
“Denied or limited access to government and private businesses goods and services should not be based on one’s medical status and the idea of a domestic ‘vaccine passport’ is a dangerous one that can create a class of citizens,” he said.
The NSW Teachers Federation will hold an unprecedented meeting of all high school principals and union representatives across Greater Sydney to discuss how to respond if the NSW government persists with its plan to send year 12 students back to school.
But Premier Gladys Berejiklian defended the decision, saying the HSC was an “opportunity for a better life”, particularly for migrants like her.
Public and private teacher unions, public principals and the Catholic sector are concerned about HSC students returning to school on August 16 despite climbing COVID-19 case numbers. At some schools, particularly in the private sector, students travel from more than 100 postcodes.
Friday’s meeting comes ahead of a special gathering of the federation’s state executive on Tuesday. President Angelo Gavrielatos has refused to rule out industrial action if union members remain concerned about their safety on school sites.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says he wants to suspend international flight arrivals, despite the growing number of Australians stranded overseas. He said the hotel quarantine beds would instead be used to house close contacts of COVID cases.
“I want to be clear I have not made the decision yet, but I’d like to make the decision to suspend [international] flights. I will inform the Prime Minister of that and use the hotel quarantine capacity to support locals who need somewhere to sleep or stay,” Mr Andrews said. “[Otherwise] if they were to stay in their family home they would likely infect everybody else [where] they live.”
Mr Andrews said he was surprised to hear that extra Pfizer vaccines would be going to NSW and he was requesting a boost to Victoria’s supply.
“We hadn’t been told about that. That’s fine, they have got a greater need, give them a greater amount of Pfizer. I am told there are additional supplies going into Queensland. On the back of that, we made a request for extra to come to us.”
The Premier urged workers to get tested, saying support packages were available for those in need.
“If you don’t have resources to fall back on, and you need to get tested and stay away from work for a day, we will pay you $450 – no questions asked,” he said.
“Secondly if you are positive or a close contact that has to isolate for two weeks, we will give you $1500. So no one in Victoria has to make that choice between feeding their family and doing the right thing by the rest of us.”
A 34-year-old woman from NSW has died after developing the rare clotting disorder linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the country’s medical regulator has reported, the sixth death connected to the side effect in Australia.
It came on the same day that NSW reported a further five people had died from COVID-19, taking the death tally in the current outbreak to 21 from a total of 4319 cases.
So far, about 7 million doses of AstraZeneca have been administered across Australia since March. Two further cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) were reported in the last week, taking the total number of cases to 93.
Mr Andrews claimed the emergence of two mystery cases meant the state had no option but to lock down for seven days, instead of four or five. Schools will be closed and the same restrictions as the last lockdown will be in place.
While he hoped the harsh restrictions would end after seven days, this was not something he could guarantee.
“I don’t want to be foreshadowing or giving people false hope that on Monday I’m gonna be standing here saying it’s all fine and we will open up again, and I think that is not going to happen. Seven days is what we believe is necessary, but let’s hope that it is accurate. We will be working as hard as we can to make sure that come 8pm next Thursday we can be out of this,” he said.
Mr Andrews justified locking down regional areas, citing sewerage tests in Wangaratta in Victoria’s north-east indicating that COVID-19 was present in the community.
“We have some reason to believe there is COVID-19 in that community or has been in that community. We saw last time, a few weeks ago this went from Melbourne into Bacchus Marsh, Barwon Heads, all the way up to Mildura. We all have to work as hard as we can to avoid the spreading any further than it already has,” he said.
The Premier said the outbreak in NSW was inevitably impacting Victoria and he appealed to anyone experiencing symptoms to immediately get tested.
“No one is more upset to see cases in Sydney going up than me, because their problem is our problem,” he said.
“Not to be criticising or to be obsessing with Sydney but if they open up tomorrow, the hospitals would be overrun in a matter of days. We don’t want that to happen here, or anywhere for that matter.”