McGowan doubles down on hard border with NSW as Sydney lockdown extended to October

The Greater Sydney lockdown will be extended until October and a curfew introduced in hotspots as NSW recorded another 644 new Covid cases overnight.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wished there was “a perfect pathway” out of restrictions.

“I wish there was a list of things, I said do this and you will be okay,” she said.

The latest announcement closely follows WA Premier Mark McGowan declaring NSW as an “extreme risk” and banning all travel from the state even on compassionate grounds.

“Western Australians who left the state for NSW this year and are seeking to return can apply to do so on compassionate grounds, subject to conditions,” he said.

“This exemption category will no longer be available if NSW is classified as an ‘extreme risk’ jurisdiction, so anyone looking to return should act now.”

The outbreak in NSW has triggered a slanging match between state premiers, with everyone taking the moral high ground simultaneously.

McGowan said his actions were squarely the fault of the NSW Government.

“It did not do what it had to do, and it did not do it for two months,” he said.

“It is frustrating as hell to me that we are going through this, that those states are going through this and that New Zealand has to go through it.

“The ACT, which went without a case for over a year, now has to go through it. Melbourne is going through it.”

He argued that the entire country was “paying the price” of the NSW government’s inability to act fast.

“It is one of the greatest public policy failures I have seen in my lifetime of any government in Australia. It is just appalling,” McGowan said.

The rising numbers of cases in NSW has essentially derailed the much trumpeted four phase national pathway out of Covid.

Exiting the first phase, which the nation is still under, is based on an uptick in vaccinations but from a zero infection landscape.

With case numbers increasing every day in both NSW and now Victoria and the ACT, the modelling on which the national plan has been based is now fast becoming redundant.

The Federal Government has been strangely absent from much of the debate, not helped by the mixed messaging from Berejiklian who seems to pivot from an insistence to eradicating Covid to learning to live with it on a daily basis.

“To assume that forevermore there will be zero cases around Australia is, I think, an assumption that nobody can really make,” Berejiklian said earlier this week.

“We know that once you open up, once borders come down, once there’s the prospect of international travel, something we’re all looking forward to, we do need to co-exist with Delta.”

If NSW reaches its 70 per cent vaccination target in October as hoped, there is still no clear plan whether to open up if case numbers are still high.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that “doesn’t mean you stop trying”.

“It means you keep going and you keep going as hard as you can to keep it suppressed for as long as you can until we’re in that position where we’re hitting those higher targets,” he said.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was a “fallacy” to try and eliminate Covid.

“Based on the medical advice today and what we know about the efficacy of the vaccines but also the transmissibility of the virus, we are going to be living with COVID for a number of years to come, with cases and of course with deaths and serious illness,” he said.

“And the idea is to get as many people vaccinated as possible to reduce and to mitigate that threat.

“We need to learn to live with COVID and we will do so once we start to hit those 70 and 80 per cent targets. The restrictions will ease, the economy will open back up and people will be able to have hope about the future.”

The problem is both McGowan and Morrison think they are sticking to the national plan.

“What’s happening with NSW is they’re deviating from the national plan,” McGowan said.

“The national plan at the moment is you minimise or eliminate the spread of Delta. That is where we are at. And that’s what NSW should be doing.”

The National Cabinet is meeting today.