Gladys under attack for virus response
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has come under fire from leading infectious diseases experts say Greater Sydney should have had a three-day lockdown before Christmas.
University of New South Wales head of biosecurity and research Raina MacIntyre warned New Year's Eve had the potential to cause a horror two-week period with the virus.
She said that would be accelerated by the cricket's third Test match between Australia and India at the 48,000-seat SCG, which will go ahead with a 50 per cent capacity.
Professor MacIntyre questioned why up to 24,000 would be allowed to watch the cricket at the SCG in the wake of widespread cancellations of New Year's Eve celebrations.
She also said the city should have been locked down before the super-spreading events of Christmas and New Year's Eve.
Professor MacIntyre said that instead of Ms Berejiklian's gradual tightening of restrictions on gatherings at home and indoors, a brief shutdown would have been more effective.
"If there had been a Greater Sydney lockdown before Christmas, for even three days, it would have saved a lot of pain," Prof MacIntyre told 2GB radio on Thursday.
"(So far it has been) voluntary recommendations and piecemeal restrictions in the middle of what is a very serious outbreak."
She warned New Year's Eve was a critical time for Sydney's outbreak.
"Tonight is a very high risk; people who got infected on Christmas Day will be at their most infectious today," she said.
"This is a super danger period, from January 6 to January 14 is where we may see a big surge in cases. It's going to go up again because of tonight."
This week, Ms Berejiklian scrapped a plan to allow frontline workers to watch the fireworks from the Sydney Harbour foreshore. Her government also reduced the number of people allowed to gather at a home from 10 to five and outdoors from 50 to 30.
"It's just terrible timing (for the outbreak) and then to put the cricket on top of that is just adding fuel to the fire," Professor MacIntyre said.
"It's sending a mixed message; it's not okay to go to other mass gatherings such as carols in the domain, the fireworks, or your own wedding, but it's okay for 24,000 people to get together at the cricket.
"People can become less compliant (when they see that). I can have people over because 24,000 people are at the cricket."
University of Sydney infectious disease expert Professor Robert Booy said a lockdown may be required in the New Year.
"We're pulling out a lot of stops, so we need to do things sequentially," he told Nine's Today show.
"But if these stops aren't working within a few days, a short, sharp lockdown may well be the circuit breaker we need."
Australian Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller disagreed with the Berejiklian government's claims it had been taking a "precautionary approach" to the outbreaks.
"In the instance of coronavirus, being precautionary means to take quite strong measures very early," he said.
"Things like lockdowns, tell people to wear masks, get some vaccine ready to go in an emergency sense and none of those things are being suggested in NSW at the moment."
Originally published as Gladys under attack for virus response