Gladys Berejiklian’s bid to mandate Covid vaccinations for tradies and construction workers has flared tensions within her own political party after she touted jabs as the ticket out of Sydney’s lockdown.
The Premier has flagged six million vaccines – or around 50 to 60 per cent of the population – as the milestone for easing restrictions across Greater Sydney, with the target on track to be reached by September.
As the highly infectious Indian Delta outbreak continues to wreak havoc across NSW, high-vaccination rates have become integral to the government’s virus suppression strategy – with around 4.4 million doses administered to date.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian faces backlash from members within her own party over a move to force construction workers to be immunised before returning to work
Although Ms Berejiklian has shied away from implementing state-wide mandatory vaccines, the premier has suggested incentives – such as the ability to work – would be offered to those who roll up their sleeves.
She has already announced that from Wednesday construction workers in the eight LGAs of concern in Sydney’s west and southwest could only return to work if staffing capacity was halved and workers were vaccinated.
‘I urge people now to come forward and get vaccinated, especially if you are in a job which traditionally has a lot to do with people, if it has face-to-face contact,’ she said.
‘We encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as possible, so that we have options moving forward into September about how we can move forward more freely.’
But the move has sparked opposition among her colleagues, with NSW Liberal backbencher Tanya Davies planning to introduce a private member’s bill to ban companies and the government imposing compulsory vaccinations in the workforce.
High vaccination rates have been touted as Sydney’s way out of a cycle of endless lockdowns (pictured, an eerily quiet Circular Quay on Sunday)
Under Ms Berejiklian’s new regulation, workers from the Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta LGAs will need to provide proof of the jab or a negative Covid result from Wednesday.
She is also looking at proposals to mandate the vaccines for workers, in what would become a ‘no jab, no work’ policy.
Twelve suburbs in the Penrith LGA have joined the same harsher lockdown restrictions in the other eight other Covid-hit council areas, which bar them from leaving the areas unless they are an essential worker.
The suburbs include Caddens, Claremont Meadows, Colyton, Erskine Park, Kemps Creek, Kingswood, Mount Vernon, North St Marys, Orchard Hills, Oxley Park, St Clair and St Marys.
Ms Davies, the member for Malgoa in Western Sydney, said employees being forced to get the Covid jab was ‘an attack on my community and the people of NSW’.
Conservative Liberals are set to back a private member’s bill introduces by NSW MP Tanya Davies to ban companies and the government introducing vaccine mandates (pictured, a nurse giving out a vaccine in Lakemba on Sunday)
‘No person should lose their job if they do not get vaccinated,’ Ms Davies told The Australian.
‘They may not want to be vaccinated for medical, ethical or religious reasons and we should be protecting people’s individual rights and circumstances.’
Ms Davies’ bill has the support of other conservative Liberals, including NSW Counter Terrorism Minister Anthony Roberts, MP for Wollondilly Nathaniel Smith,
While Mr Roberts strongly supports vaccinations, he contends it is a ‘slippery slope’ towards forming a chasm of distrust between the government and citizens when strict mandates are introduced.
‘I always believe that people have the right not to get vaccinated. The government has done a great job in NSW. I just think that now in this last marathon, we need to explain the importance of what we’re doing, not tell people what to do,’ Mr Roberts said.
Mr Smith held similar sentiments, saying the argument is not against vaccination but about government powers over individual rights.
Scott Morrison said on Friday that forcing Australians to get vaccinated could breach discrimination laws.
Almost 46 per cent of NSW residents over 16 have had at least one vaccine dose. Pictured: People line up for the Covid jab at Sydney Olympic Park
‘Businesses have a legal obligation to keep their workplaces safe and to eliminate or minimise so far as “reasonably practicable” the risk of exposure to Covid-19,’ the Prime Minister said.
‘Decisions to require Covid-19 vaccinations for employees will be a matter for individual business, taking into account their particular circumstances and their obligations under safety, anti-discrimination and privacy laws.’
More than five million people – including thousands in regional areas – are in lockdown across NSW after the highly infectious Delta outbreak seeped out of Sydney.
Stay-at-home orders are now in place in Greater Sydney, Newcastle and Armidale in regional NSW as the state’s Covid crisis continues to spiral out of control.
There was a push to get 5,000 people vaccinated with AstraZeneca on Sunday, but only 2,000 appointments were taken
Almost 46 per cent of NSW residents over 16 have had at least one vaccine dose, with almost 23 per cent of eligible residents fully vaccinated.
Ms Berejiklian has suggested case numbers will never return to zero as Covid cases continue to climb despite restrictions, indicating Greater Sydney lockdown will likely be extended past August 28.
NSW reported 262 new Covid cases on Sunday, a slight relief from the record-breaking 319 new infections announced the day before.
Of the 581 new infections over the weekend, at least 155 were in the community while infectious with more than 100 cases isolation status still under investigation. There were also sixth deaths recorded in the past 48 hours.
While NSW could not consider returning to pre-pandemic freedoms until it reached 70 per cent vaccination coverage, Ms Berejiklian has said some restrictions could be eased with a 50 per cent rate.
Ms Berejiklian has flagged six million jabs as the goal for lockdown restrictions being eased across Greater Sydney. Pictured are people waiting in a Covid vaccine queue
Her government hopes to hit six million jabs by month’s end, which would require administering an average of 65,000 jabs each day.
On Sunday, the government held a vaccination drive aimed at food industry staff which saw 2,000 people receive AstraZeneca doses at Sydney’s Olympic Park, many of which hailed from the city’s eight LGAs of concern.
Sydney Local Health District has now vaccinated almost 5,000 workers from Coles, Aldi, Woolworths, IGA, Foodworks and Friendly Grocer stores.
‘It doesn’t mean we’ll return to pre-outbreak conditions – it means September can be a month where we have greater freedom,’ she said.
‘There are two things conditional on that – making sure that we keep case numbers as low as possible, plus we keep vaccinating.
‘We know in the future, freedom relies on vaccination.’