The owner of popular restaurant chain Rashays is the latest prominent Australian to question the logic behind Australia’s never-ending cycle of coronavirus lockdowns and the pursuit of a Covid elimination strategy – saying governments have had 18 months to come up with a better plan.
Long Centrelink queues formed in Sydney on Tuesday as workers applied for relief payments, with nearly 14 million Australians now living under some form of lockdown, prompting radio host Ben Fordham to warn the ‘social and economic consequences’ were now ‘dwarfing’ the damage from the virus.
Carrie Bickmore and fellow hosts of The Project also complained that Australia is now in a worse place than when the pandemic first hit 18 months ago, in stark contrast to the rest of the world.
Rashays co-founder Rami Ykmour, who was dramatically arrested in his office while defending staff from police enforcing Covid restrictions earlier this month, told Daily Mail Australia lockdowns were crippling small businesses.
Mr Ykmour called for more transparency regarding a road map out of Covid and more assistance for affected businesses and workers.
But his comments comes as new modelling by health experts warns NSW will likely remain in lockdown until the end of August or even longer.
Mr Ykmour (pictured with his partner) is calling on lawmakers to provide a clearer roadmap out of lockdown for the sake of Australia’s mental health
‘We all need to support the police and the government in what they are doing during Covid however our leaders need to lead with greater consultation with small business who are the backbone of the community and our country,’ he said.
‘Lockdown after lockdown is crippling business and has enormous effects on not just the mental health of the workers and mums and dads, but will deliver a knock-on negative effect for our children in the long term.’
One of the major challenges the restaurateur is facing is that his nationwide business has to abide by different lockdown restrictions in different areas.
Greater Sydney is enduring its fourth week of strict stay-at-home lockdown restrictions to slow the spread of the highly-contagious Indian Delta variant, while South Australia has brought in tough restrictions and Victoria is also in shutdown.
‘We are in three different states, so there are three different rules in place, so it’s like we are running three different businesses,’ Mr Ykmour told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Some allow dine-in others don’t, some it’s the four persons per sq/m rule, others aren’t. So it’s a massive challenge.’
The growing backlash against lockdowns comes as Melbourne endures its fifth shut down since the pandemic began (pictured, two women in the city on Tuesday)
Reflecting on this controversial arrest, Mr Ykmour said the ordeal was ’embarrassing’ for himself and the business and that he is 100 per cent behind the police and the government
Mr Ykmour said another problem for the crippled hospitality industry is that stay-at-home orders are declared with very little notice for business owners.
‘This pandemic did not start yesterday, there has been 18 months to prepare,’ he said.
‘When restrictions are called, we are not able to adjust our menu and we are left with perishable items that have to go in the bin, and obviously staff have their shifts cut.
‘The emergency subsidy payments will help, but there are still major challenges.’
Reflecting on this controversial arrest, Mr Ykmour said the ordeal was ’embarrassing’ for himself and the business and that he is 100 per cent behind the police and the government.
Ben Fordham (pictured, right) has lashed out at the NSW government’s handling of Sydney’s ongoing lockdown, while The Project’s Carrie Bickmore (left) complained that Australia is now in a worse place than when the pandemic first began 18 months ago
‘Right now the social and economic consequences of the lockdowns are dwarfing the damage of the virus’, Fordham said (pictured, queues for Covid tests in Melbourne on Tuesday)
His comments reflect a wider change in Australians’ views towards lockdown as the primary way to handle coronavirus outbreaks.
The Project hosts on Tuesday’s program lamented that Australia is now in a worse position than at the same time last year, while the rest of the world is opening up and learning to live with the virus – albeit it with much higher vaccination rates.
Co-host Carrie Bickmore also weighed in and said it was disheartening the pandemic has had such a lasting impact on the country.
‘If you said this time last year, we’d still be in this situation a year later, I just don’t think anyone was imagining it,’ she said.
‘I’m sure the experts were, but I don’t think everyday people were thinking that’s how long this was going to go for.’
His comments come after radio host Ben Fordham joined calls for Australia to learn to live with Covid, with nearly 14 million residents in NSW, Victoria and SA now in lockdown.
The 2GB broadcaster slammed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday morning over her insistence the state would not open up until community transmissions hit zero.
‘We are seeing very little change in the daily case numbers. They want us to focus on the number of people who are infectious while in the community. We’re not really making a dent on that number,’ Fordham said.
‘And yet the government reckons that that number needs to be close to zero before we can open up. Come off it. How’re we going to get there?
‘And at what point do we start showing some courage? Right now the social and economic consequences of the lockdowns are dwarfing the damage of the virus.’
Radio host Ben Fordham joined calls for Australia to learn to live with Covid, with over 14 million residents in NSW, Victoria and SA now in lockdown (pictured, walkers in Melbourne on Tuesday)
Queues stretched down the street at Centrelink offices on Tuesday as out-of-work Australians applied for relief payments (pictured in Darlinghurst)
Sydney is enduring its tightest restrictions since the pandemic began in March last year, with even tradies unable to work.
‘Why don’t we get fair dinkum and work towards the Premier’s goal of learning to live with the virus,’ Fordham added.
‘We have the harshest restrictions of any state since coronavirus arrived. Kids aren’t at school, small businesses are on their knees, if you live in Fairfield, Liverpool or Canterbury, you cannot leave the area for work unless you are an authorised worker,’ he said.
‘And now more than a quarter of a million construction workers and tradies are out of a job. It’s never happened anywhere in Australia. They didn’t even do it in Victoria, during their darkest days… this cannot go on.’
Sydney is enduring its tightest restrictions since the pandemic began in March last year, with even tradies unable to work (pictured, Auburn in lockdown om Tuesday)
The outbreak of infections that began in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on June 16 has now reached 1,418 infections (pictured, Liverpool in Sydney’s south-west, the new epicentre of the infections, on Tuesday)
But new modelling from Melbourne University led by epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely suggests it’s likely to take at least five more weeks for Sydney’s daily case number to drop below five a day, news.com reported.
This means lockdown could last until at least the end of August.
‘The Delta variant has been a game changer,’ Prof Blakely said.
‘It is harder to control and eliminate, and makes policies other than hard lockdown very uncertain and hard to predict.’
He said if NSW had not brought in even harsher lockdown restrictions, it could have taken 27 weeks for infection rates to stabilise.
Melbourne University’s modelling also lines up with similar scenarios played out by Burnet Institute and epidemiologist Professor Michael Toole, who estimated that Sydney will not see the end of lockdown until at least August.
Prof Toole said it took six weeks for Victoria to get from 100 cases a day down to zero last year, and that was without the highly infectious Indian Delta variant.
New modelling from Melbourne University led by epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely suggests it’s likely to take at least five more weeks for Sydney’s daily case number to drop (pictured, a testing centre in Sydney on Tuesday)
A Barangaroo construction site in Sydney’s CBD is seen shut down on Tuesday (pictured) as the industry is brought to its knees
During the Stage Four lockdown in Victoria last year, which lasted 112 days, tradies were able to work throughout with sensible Covid-safe practices in place.
Tradies are unable to work in the Greater Sydney area but are also unable to travel into regional New South Wales.
One Sydney construction boss who had to stand down 200 building site workers under strict new rules revealed on Tuesday he was visited by police over unfounded fears he was trying to incite a riot.
Peter Khayat, from Sydney’s south, made a series of Facebook posts on Monday saying: ‘Am I the only one thinking it’s time we fought for our basic human rights?’
In a series of Facebook posts on Saturday, Peter Khayat (pictured with his wife Sarah) from Kogarah in Sydney’s south, appeared to call for an uprising against the government over the lockdown
Police have turned up on the doorstep of a Sydney construction site boss over fears he was trying to incite a coup over the latest lockdown restrictions (pictured above)
‘How the f**k are we not storming government buildings [not] just doing as they say?’
He also made posts supporting anti-lockdown protests which have broken out in Bankstown, in Sydney’s south-west, since the area was put under tighter restrictions last week.
In a series of Facebook posts he appeared to call for an uprising against the government over the lockdown.
‘Time to riot… freedom is not free. The time now is now brother,’ Mr Khayat posted on Facebook.
‘Bankstown the lebos are in full riot. Freedom is not free!”
Shortly after the posts, a convoy of trucks caused havoc on the Anzac Bridge on Saturday (pictured above) afternoon with similar scenes at the Harbour Bridge.
Shortly after the posts, a convoy of trucks caused havoc on the Anzac Bridge on Saturday afternoon with similar scenes also seen at the Harbour Bridge.
A few hours later, Mr Khayat opened the door of his home to three NSW Police officers after they received a tip-off about his posts.
In a series of video clips Mr Khayat published on his TikTok, police said they were told about his comments and were doing their ‘due diligence’.
But Mr Khayat insisted: ‘You just wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to storm the government buildings? I don’t even know where the government buildings are…’
Daily Mail Australia contacted NSW Police. Mr Khayat declined to comment.
In a series of video clips Mr Khayat published on his TikTok account (pictured), police say they had been told about his comments and were doing their ‘due diligence’
A series of Facebook posts apparently called for a coup against the government (pictured) which sparked the police visit to Peter Khayat’s home
NSW recorded 78 new Covid-19 cases overnight on Tuesday, but 27 were still out in the community while infectious – a number being used by health officials to determine whether lockdown can be eased.
Premier Berejiklian warned residents in the hotspot Liverpool, Canterbury-Bankstown and Fairfield local government areas they could be carrying the virus even if they have no symptoms.
She said more than two-thirds of the state’s new cases were still being found in those three regions.
Officials also confirmed a woman in her 50s had died from Covid-19 in Sydney’s south-west; she is the mother of two removalists who travelled to regional NSW while infected with the virus.
NSW recorded 78 new Covid-19 cases overnight – but 27 were still out in the community while infectious, a number which Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) says holds the key to ending lockdown
Of the 49 linked cases, 45 are household contacts and 4 are close contacts.
The 78 positive results in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday night came from 62,860 tests. NSW Health said 29 of the new infections have yet to be linked to known cases.
The outbreak of infections that began in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on June 16 has now reached 1,418 infections.
‘If you are living in a community that has a lot of cases, even if you don’t have symptoms, don’t assume you don’t have the virus,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
‘In communities where the virus is lurking, where the virus is circulating, you could have the virus, not know it and unfortunately take it home and give it to your loved ones.’
FIND THE LATEST EXPOSURE SITES NEAR YOU
Anti-lockdown tensions are continuing to rise, particular in Sydney’s south-west, the new epicentre of Sydney’s outbreak.
Demonstrators over the weekend even clashed with police resulting in four men being arrested.
Premier Berejiklian tightened lockdown rules in the councils of Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury on Saturday due to disproportionately high case numbers of the highly infectious Indian Delta variant in those areas.
But the rise in cases didn’t stop about 40 furious residents from taking to the streets claiming the south-west was ‘unfairly targeted’ by the strengthened rules.
Protesters directed their anger at Ms Berejiklian chanting ‘Freedom, Freedom’, ‘No to the vaccine’, and ‘f**k off Gladys’ as they marched through Paul Keating Park at about 5pm on Sunday.
Fiery photos show men, women and teenagers marching with a mega phone, and mostly without face masks, coming up against police who tried continually to quell the demonstration.
Pictured: Police trying to reason with a protester in Bankstown at an anti-lockdown protest on Sunday afternoon
SYDNEY’S LOCKDOWN: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW UNTIL JULY 30
Those living in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Shellharbour and Wollongong must abide by the following:
Masks are mandatory in all indoor settings outside the home, including offices and apartment buildings
Residents can travel only 10km from their homes
– Exercise and gather in groups of two while outside
– Only one member of each household per day allowed to leave the home for essential shopping
– No browsing in supermarkets and retail businesses. Shop only for essential items
– Funerals are capped at 10, weddings are banned
– No car pooling with other households when going out for exercise
There is no curfew but a stay at home order applies, with only four reasons to leave your home
Schools are closed with at-home learning in place, but no child will be turned away if they need to attend in person
The new rules are in addition to the stay-at-home orders already in place until July 30, which include only leaving the home to:
*shop for essential items (one person only)
*give care and compassionate reasons (one visitor only)
*exercise or for work or education that cannot be conducted remotely
People in Fairfield, Liverpool or Canterbury in Sydney’s southwest are advised to stay home, unless:
*shop for essential items (one person only)
*give care and compassionate reasons (one visitor only)
*For work unless it is an essential service, such as health workers. Businesses must give employees the option of working from home.
* Any essential employees who are permitted to leave their suburbs for work are subject to the same restrictions previously in place, namely receiving a negative Covid test every three days.
The rest of NSW (including regional areas) is subject to the following restrictions:
- Dance and gym classes are limited to 20 people per class and masks must be worn
- No more than five visitors (including children) allowed in homes
- Masks are compulsory in all indoor non-residential settings
- The four-square-metre rule is back for indoor and outdoor settings and drinking while standing at indoor venues is not allowed
- Dancing will not be allowed at indoor hospitality venues or nightclubs, but dancing is allowed at weddings for the wedding party (no more than 20 people)
When does the lockdown end?
- Stay at home orders apply to Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour until 11.59pm on Friday, July 30, 2021