Gladys Berejiklian is considering reopened swimming pools in Sydney’s Covid hotspots after copping a grilling from angry mayors in the Harbour City’s 12 LGAs of concern.
The NSW premier agreed to host rolling virtual meetings with the mostly Labor mayors on Tuesday to hear their concerns about the current lockdown restrictions – and even agreed to seek health advice about reopening their pools.
But the ‘heated’ discussion didn’t exactly go to plan for the embattled Liberal leader with the group labelling the talks a ‘PR stunt’ and accusing her of sowing further ‘divide’ between the east and western suburbs.
The LGAs, which include Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Canterbury-Bankstown, Campbelltown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield, and some suburbs of Penrith – are subject to even harsher stay-at-home measures than the rest of Sydney.
The 2.5 million residents living in these areas – which make up about half of Greater Sydney – must abide by a 9pm curfew and are not permitted to leave their LGA unless they are an authorised worker with a special permit.
Meanwhile, some of Sydney’s ritzier neighbourhoods are seeing higher daily case numbers but are not subject to the same restrictions.
Gladys Berejiklian (left) agreed to seek health advice on reopening swimming pools in Sydney’s Covid hotspots after copping a grilling from angry mayors in the Harbour City’s 12 LGAs of concern
Of the 1127 new Covid cases recorded on Tuesday, more than half were detected in Sydney’s 12 hotspot areas
‘We raised… concerns about the different discrimination that we’re feeling in the areas of concern, where the meeting got a little bit heated,’ Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour told the ABC.
‘[The Premier’s] answer to that was she was trying to protect everybody… but we just think it could’ve been done a different way.’
He argued the highly controversial curfews must be removed for the sake of shift workers and explained how residents are ‘sick and tired’ of police helicopters surveilling their communities.
While Mr Asfour said the premier took their discussion to heart and jotted down ‘copious notes,’ others participants were not so kind.
Cumberland Mayor Steve Christou said Ms Berejiklian who denied the mayors a similar meeting two weeks ago, was merely ‘paying us lip service’ and called the virtual chat a ‘PR stunt’.
‘The Premier listened to our concerns and I gave her a reality check about what is really going on in Cumberland and the shocking impact it is having on our residents and businesses,’ he said.
‘She continues to hide behind the health advice and could not offer any solutions or concessions to afford our residents the same opportunities as those in the east and other areas.’
The 12 LGAs of concern which have seen higher Covid case numbers are subject to harsher restrictions than the rest of Sydney (pictured, Lakemba in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA)
The talks got ‘heated’ when the mayors accused the premier of ‘discrimination’. Pictured: Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Khal Asfour (left) and Cumberland Mayor Steve Christou (right)
Liverpool Mayor Wendy Waller said the perceived double standard has caused an ‘irreparable’ divide between the east and the west, adding members of her community ‘no longer feel like we’re all in this together (pictured, a Covid testing clinic in Sydney’s Lakemba)
Fresh in the minds of community leaders were shocking pictures over the weekend showing beaches in the north, south and east of Sydney teaming with sunseekers as the mercury soared past 30C.
Liverpool Mayor Wendy Waller said the perceived double standard has caused an ‘irreparable’ divide between the east and the west, adding members of her community ‘no longer feel like we’re all in this together’.
To repair some of the damage as the city leads into the warmer months Ryde Mayor Jerome Laxale demanded that pools and waterways reopen for those living in the LGAs of concern.
Ms Berejiklian agreed to get health advice on the issue, the mayors said.
‘If a thousand people can swim at Bondi Beach safely, surely a couple of hundred can swim here,’ Ryde Mayor Jerome Laxale said.
Also crying foul was Burwood mayor John Faker, whose Inner West LGA has just 69 active Covid cases.
He pointed out the Sydney LGA – which takes in areas like the CBD, Redfern, Pyrmont, Darlinghurst and Glebe – currently has a staggering 843 active infections but is still not considered an LGA of concern.
Sunbathers gathered on Bondi Beach on Sunday to soak up the warm weather (pictured), sparking outrage among Covid-fearing residents
Pictured: Two women wearing face masks on Bondi Beach on Sunday. Temperatures his about 30C for the second day in a row prompting fury about beachgoers
‘It makes no logical sense why we should remain an area of concern,’ he said.
‘My community just wants to be treated fairly. We want the same freedoms as everybody else.’
Deputy chief health officer Jeremy McAnulty said there are a number of factors which determine if an area should be subject to harsher lockdown measures and deemed an area of concern.
‘It’s essentially the numbers of cases, trajectories, immunisation rates, levels of movements within those LGAs, based on transport and other data there,’ he said.
When it comes to the possibility of reopening the pools and waterway, he added that swimming wasn’t the risk.
‘It’s more about the facilities that surround that, how you get into the pool and whether you’re likely to congregate around that pool,’ he said.
Of the 1127 new Covid cases recorded on Tuesday, more than half were detected in Sydney’s 12 hotspot areas.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro is set to host a similar set of meetings with regional leaders on Friday.
To repair some of the damage as the city leads into the warmer months Ryde Mayor Jerome Laxale demanded that pools and waterways reopen for those living in the LGAs of concern (pictured, Auburn LGA in Cumberland)
Cumberland Mayor Steve Christou said Ms Berejiklian was merely ‘paying us lip service’ and called the virtual chat a ‘PR stunt’ (pictured, Sydney’s Lakemba)
WHAT ARE THE RESTRICITONS IN SYDNEY LGAs OF CONCERN?
Stay at home orders apply to the local government areas of Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield, and parts of Penrith
From 12.01am Monday, August 23, the following additional rules were brought in residents and businesses in the LGAs of concern:
* Curfew from 9pm to 5am (except for authorised workers, emergencies or medical care)
* Outdoor exercise is limited to one hour per day if you are unvaccinated.
* From Monday September 13, if you are fully vaccinated, you can go out for outdoor recreation in a public space with fully vaccinated members of your household, or with one other fully vaccinated person who is not a member of your household for up to two hours a day
* The following retail premises must close except for click and collect: garden centres and plant nurseries, office supplies, hardware and building supplies, landscaping material supplies, rural supplies, and pet supplies (tradespeople are allowed to shop in-store where relevant)
* All exams and other education or professional development-related activities will move online, not including the HSC.
The following restrictions around workplaces and authorised workers from the LGAs of concern apply
* Childcare workers and disability support workers who live or work in the LGAs of concern must have their first vaccination dose by 30 August
* Authorised workers who work outside their LGA of concern are only permitted to work if rapid antigen testing is implemented at their work-site or they have had their first vaccination dose by 30 August
* From Saturday, August 28, authorised workers from the LGAs of concern are required to carry a permit from Service NSW declaring that they are an authorised worker and cannot work from home
* On the same date, anyone entering an LGA of concern for the purposes of work must carry a worker permit issued by Service NSW
Special powers have also been given to the NSW Police Force including:
* Power for the Commissioner of Police to lockdown apartment blocks while health assesses the Covid risk
* Power for the Commissioner of Police to declare a residential premise a Covid-risk premise and require all people to present to police during compliance checks
* Powers to allow police to direct a person who has been issued with an infringement notice to return to their place of residence
* If a person from outside an LGA of concern is found to be in an LGA of concern without a reasonable excuse, they will be fined $1000 and required to isolate at home for 14 days
Additional measures for Greater Sydney (including regional NSW until 28 August):
* Mask wearing is mandatory when outside your home, except when exercising