A leading disease expert from Melbourne has called for Sydney to go into coronavirus lockdown to avoid ending up like Victoria.
Professor Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist and public health medicine specialist from the University of Melbourne, also suggested masks should be mandatory.
‘I think New South Wales is on a knife edge,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We’ve learnt that this virus gets ahead of us and for us to get ahead of the virus we need to take bold leaps.
‘To me that means that they need to be seriously considering a Stage 3 lockdown in Sydney,’ Professor Blakely explained.
Under a Stage 3 lockdown, like the one being enforced in regional Victoria, residents are banned from leaving their homes except to go shopping for food and essential items, care and caregiving, daily exercise, work and study.
Concerns over a second coronavirus wave in New South Wales have grown after Melbourne was forced into a Stage 4 lockdown on Sunday.
Victoria is set to report 429 new cases and 13 deaths on Monday, bringing the total number of active cases to 6,751 active cases and the state’s death toll to 136.
A further 13 cases of coronavirus were also diagnosed in New South Wales on Monday – one of which could not be traced to any ongoing clusters. This is the seventh mystery case in NSW in the last week.
Professor Blakely said current COVID-19 measures in New South Wales were not enough to curb the spread of the virus.
‘Having seen what’s happened in Victoria, New South Wales needs to ask itself “Could this be contained with contact tracing alone?” and I think the answer is no.
‘It is extremely difficult to keep ahead of this virus with contact tracing and, given it’s in multiple locations, the chance NSW will tip into a Victoria-like situation is real,’ he explained.
The epidemiologist said the pandemic was difficult to overcome due to the virus being ‘sneaky as hell’.
‘A third of people are asymptomatic so they don’t even know they’ve got the virus, the other two are infectious for 24 to 48 hours before they become symptomatic.’
He said if Sydney waited any longer to go into a stage three lockdown it could be ‘too late’.
‘For a state that wants to achieve elimination this is the sort of brave decision making that is required,’ Professor Blakely said.
He also called for masks to be a requirement across New South Wales.
‘Masks should be mandatory for outside by now, there’s no economic cost of it,’ he said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitted community transmission cases were a ’cause for concern’ but said authorities were doing everything they could to keep the situation from spiralling like it has in Victoria.
She urged people to wear face masks in public from Monday.
Ms Berejiklian said authorities would not make mask usage mandatory in NSW but revised current recommendations to address four specific circumstances.
Masks should be worn by public-facing employees such as hospitality or supermarket workers, worshippers and residents of suburbs near COVID-19 clusters, as well as in situations where social distancing is impossible.
‘We have been talking about masks for several weeks but obviously the persistent situation in Victoria gives us cause for alarm in terms of the potential for further seeding in NSW, and it is about risk mitigation strategy,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
Ms Berejiklian said she will be heeding the advice of health authorities in her daily life, calling wearing a mask ‘the fourth line of defence’.