New reports have claimed Prime Minister Scott Morrison directly advised Gladys Berejiklian to impose harsher lockdown restrictions on the Greater Sydney region this weekend.
On Saturday, Ms Berejiklian ordered all non-essential retail and construction to shut up shop until at least July 30th, or until contact tracers detect zero cases of community transmission.
Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell claimed Mr Morrison was a “key driver” behind the scenes in NSW urging the Premier to “go hard” despite having built an image as one of the more lenient premiers in regards to lockdowns.
“Sky News can reveal the Prime Minister was a key driver in advising the Premier to go harder to squash the virus in Australia’s biggest city,” Mr Clennell said.
It comes as NSW awaits its Sunday results, which have been tipped to exceed 100 for another day running.
“Now we know Morrison came to the conclusion that it was time to go hard,” Mr Clennell continued, claiming “Ms Berejiklian’s tendency to revert to indecision has been cited by colleagues as why she didn’t go the whole hog earlier”.
“The reluctance of some in her Cabinet has been seen as another reason. And there’s another view she didn’t want to be seen following Victorian Premier Dan Andrews.”
When questioned on the NSW lockdown this week, Mr Morrison appeared confident in the NSW Government’s response to the latest outbreak.
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“The Commonwealth understands we will be continuing to support that for as long as the lockdown remains in place,” he told reporters. “Hopefully that won’t be too long, I have no doubt NSW will ensure it will only go as long as it has to, but it will go as long as it needs to.”
The Prime Minister has previously praised Ms Berejiklian for her handling of the outbreak and maintaining NSW‘s image as the state that stays open. In July 2020, Mr Morrison spoke publicly on NSW’s response as Mr Andrews ordered Victoria into its longest lockdown period to date.
“I commend the NSW Premier for the way she is handling the outbreak in NSW, the fact she hasn’t locked down Australia’s biggest city,” Mr Morrison said at the time. “She has taken the very positive decision to keep Sydney open for its residents, and to continue to rely on Australia’s best contact tracing system, in NSW.
“They have backed the weapons that they have built and formed to combat this virus and they have done it each and every day.”
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The Premier has been urged to play it straight with the public. With over 100 cases per day, weeks after initial restrictions were imposed in June, the state’s Delta strain outbreak continues to spread throughout the nation’s largest metro. For many, the current July 30th deadline remains unrealistic.
However, Ms Berejiklian has remained adamant the state’s response to current health advice has prevented daily cases from “reaching the thousands”.
“We took the action when we did to avert a medical and health disaster,” Ms Berejiklian said.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant reportedly told the Premier to introduce harder lockdown restrictions as early as June 26.
“Over the weekend, Berejiklian was advised by Cabinet colleagues to set a four-week date on the lockdown and just level with the public that Sydney was down past July 30,“ Mr Clennell continued.
“She is still maintaining that date, but few in Sydney believe a lockdown will end then.”