Tuesday, 23 November 2021

NSW Delta Variant Outbreak Update: Lives could have been saved if the NSW Government's Covid-19 Crisis Committee had followed the medical advice it received

After 16 June 2021 when the Delta Variant Outbreak began, the NSW Coalition Government’s COVID-19 Crisis Committee was composed of up to seven permanent members – these included then Premer Gladys Berejiklian, then Deputy-Premier John Barilaro, then Treasurer & now NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, the Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard, Member for Penrith & now Deputy-Premier Paul Toole and, the then members of government now ministers in the Perrottet Government Victor Dominello and Stuart Ayres .The state’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kerry Chant advises/makes recommendations to this committee.

It seems what many have long suspected about this committee is true……..

News.com.au, 22 November 2021:

Newly released documents reveal the NSW government ignored health advice to apply the same coronavirus lockdown rules across all of Sydney.

An email sent by NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant to Health Minister Brad Hazzard on August 14 showed she recommended “consistent measures across greater metropolitan Sydney”.

But the extra-tough lockdown rules in Sydney’s west and southwest were not brought in line with the rest of the city until September 20.

A virus expert has said lives could have been saved if the harsher rules were implemented across Sydney instead of just in select areas.

Former premier Gladys Berejiklian, who was leading the state’s pandemic response at the time, consistently argued she was relying on health advice in decisions around the lockdown.

A western Sydney opposition politician said the email proved locals “were right to feel targeted” and called the revelations “absolutely horrific”.

The Government hated it when we pointed to a Tale of Two Cities. They accused us of being political – evidence we were speaking the truth,” Lakemba MP Jihad Dib said on Monday.

When the health advice said one thing, the Government did the other. We were right to feel targeted.”

Sydney’s latest lockdown began in the last weekend of June, after an airport breach caused the Delta variant of the coronavirus to spread in the city.

Although the outbreak began in the eastern suburbs, the spread soon got worse in the city’s west.

By the second week of July, police had begun a crackdown in the western suburbs to make sure locals adhered to the lockdown.

And by the time Dr Chant wrote her August 14 email, the rules had tightened several times in an expanding area of western and southwestern Sydney where the virus was spreading the fastest.

Among the harsher rules was a ban on leaving hotspot LGAs, whereas people in other parts of the city were allowed more freedom of movement.

But the top doctor recommended the rules be made consistent.

Implement consistent measures across greater metropolitan Sydney with outdoor masks, consistent 5km rule and authorised workers only,” she wrote in a list of recommendations.

The email was written at a time when Covid-19 infections were rising fast.

Case numbers are high and escalating and likely to reach 1000 cases a day very quickly ... this is the worst outbreak in Australia during the pandemic,” Dr Chant wrote.

The first recommendation contained in the email was to “intensify the action in western Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains where case numbers are escalating”.

The same recommendation was made for rural and regional Aboriginal communities, where Dr Chant also wished to see the vaccine rollout prioritised.

She also recommended further restrictions such as a limit on who could take advantage of child care services, closing retail stores further, and reducing “non-essential activity in manufacturing/construction”.

Other recommendations in the email included “1 hour of exercise per day”, “mandate vaccination in aged care, disability, and health care” and “urgently extend the isolation payments to all LGAs of concern”.

Dr Chant also recommended locking down regional NSW, advice which the government heeded within hours of receiving her email.

An epidemiologist shown the health advice on Monday said it was difficult to say exactly what the chief health officer was advocating for based purely on her email.

University of South Australia epidemiology professor Adrian Esterman said it was “ambiguous” as to whether Dr Chant called for western Sydney’s rules to apply across the city.

If I was chief health officer, I would have wanted to come down hard across the whole of greater Sydney,” he said.

They would have had a much better chance of driving down numbers, and secondly, they would have avoided stigmatising people in those western suburbs.”

Professor Esterman also said lives could have been saved if all of Sydney had been locked down harder.

Of course, if you cut down cases you cut down on deaths,” he said.

Governments have terrible decisions to make, do we close up and kill the economy? Or do we open and accept there are going to be deaths and people who get seriously ill? It‘s a horrible equation.”.

Dr Chant has previously testified to a parliamentary committee she would give a mix of verbal and written advice to the government.

The government had kept most of her health advice secret until Labor MPs recently managed to access parts of it through an order in parliament…..

The curfew was in place in the western Sydney hotspots from August 23 to September 25, and prevented people in those areas from leaving their homes between 9pm and 5am.

Another email released to parliament showed Dr Chant had recommended a curfew as early as July 29, although she specified it would be to achieve a “messaging effect” and underscore the importance of complying with the other rules that were in place.

A curfew should be considered for the messaging effect as we need to signal the absolute urgency of the current situation with strong compliance presence,” Dr Chant wrote in the email to Mr Hazzard…..