Tougher lockdown measures could be on the table for Australia’s most populous city after thousands of residents living in Covid hotspots ignored desperate pleas to stay at home.
The Australian Defence Force has already been called in to enforce the strict new measures that came into force across large parts of the country last month.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent around 300 soldiers to parts of Sydney with higher migrant populations as well as southwestern areas yesterday to stop people leaving their homes more than once and break up gatherings, The Times reports.
It comes as the country continues to pursue a ‘Zero Covid’ strategy with aims to eliminate the virus despite mounting evidence it may be impossible – with cases continuing to rise and only 21 per cent of adults double vaccinated.
A record 319 cases were announced in Sydney on Saturday, with New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard warning a third of new infections came after people ignored stay at home measures.
Sydney has struggled to encourage poorer areas to get the Covid vaccine, with only 13 per cent vaccinated compared to 25 per cent in wealthier parts.
Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaw’s described the discrepancies between uptake as ‘shameful’ and explained many poorer areas are at a disadvantage due to language barriers, lower incomes and poor internet access.
Reaction to the soldiers’ presence has been mixed, with some arguing it could cause distress for people in the area due to the high refugee population and their experiences with war in their native countries.
The idea of a short ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown had already been mooted by the nation’s chief medical officer, Professor Paul Kelly, as Australia desparately battles against a tide of new cases in its bid for ‘zero Covid’ status.