Berejiklian holds crisis meeting as Covid cases hit a record 172

The NSW Government has held marathon crisis meetings this week as Covid case numbers continue to rise to record 172 cases today, including five new cases on the Central Coast, despite the ongoing lockdown.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian is looking at various strategies ahead of a planned announcement tomorrow whether or not she would extend Greater Sydney’s lockdown beyond July 30.

Berejiklian is pushing Sydneysiders to get vaccinated as quickly as possible by rolling out a new pilot program to make AstraZeneca vaccines available to all NSW residents over the age of 40 at the state’s chemists and pharmacies.

“My message to everybody is please come forward and get the vaccine,” Berejiklian said.

“Not only are you protecting yourself but you’re protecting those closest to you.”

While Berejiklian may be publicly advocating a vaccination pathway out of lockdown, behind closed doors various scenarios are being considered including an extended lockdown for many more months or even splitting Sydney up with the virus-impacted south-west put under tighter under restrictions while other areas of the city are given their freedom.

The Northern Beaches, Wollongong and Shellharbour have not seen any new cases in about a month.

As the head of the state with the nation’s largest economy, Berejiklian is stuck between a rock and hard place. Extending the lockdown until mid-September would result in mass job losses, according to economic modelling commissioned by Treasurer Dominic Perrottet. But the Federal Government has been adamant it would not bring back JobKeeper.

The Business Council of Australia has also warned that a three-month lockdown would wipe out erase Australia’s economic recovery from the coronavirus recession.

“Lockdowns have enormous economic and social costs and should be a last resort. But where they are used, we need to move from snap to smarter lockdowns,” said BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott.

“Business, government, health officials and the union movement need to work together on an exit plan out of the pandemic otherwise we run that risk that Australia falls behind its international competitors.”