Sydney, or more correctly “Greater Sydney” is in lockdown again. Greater Sydney includes the commutable urbanised areas that fringe the sprawling metropolis of Sydney. Not extending as far as Newcastle, but encompassing Wollongong, and Shellharbour to the south, the Central Coast to the north and the Blue Mountain, westward.
The Greater Sydney area is home to 5/8th of the population of New South Wales and nearly a fifth of the total population of Australia. The lockdown came into effect on the first Saturday of the winter school holidays. Once again plans of going anywhere went out the window for many families. It was due to end on the last Friday of the holidays but it has been extended until the 16th July. Watching the numbers, we all know it will go well beyond that.
Like Melbourne before us.
Melbourne has had a number of stints in solo lockdown. At the time, I wondered what they were doing that was so different to the rest of the country. Was it their good public transport? Did the fact that more people were on public transport rather than travelling solo in cars make a difference? Was it because it was colder down there and more people were indoors?
After the last few weeks in “soft lockdown” I think I have more of an idea. We are ignoring the stay at home orders. When the whole world was in lockdown last year it was new and scary and we all took it very seriously. But a single city tucked up in its own borders does not have the same scary overtones. People are still way too out and about. My exercise walk route takes in Wollongong Harbour. Last weekend at around 11 AM it was business as usual! Lockdown? What lockdown? People were sitting around in the sunshine eating their takeaway gelato and sipping their take away coffee cheek by jowl with most of the population of Wollongong. No one exercising here! Stay at home orders mustn’t count on sunny days. Wollongong had not had any cases (yet) so we must be immune??
Is the soft lockdown too soft?
Soft lockdown means that many shops are still open. Pubs, restaurants, and cafes are closed for anything other than take away. Places like cinemas etc are closed, Hairdressers, and beauticians are closed. Supermarkets are open. But strangely, the handbag shop in the mall is still open. The clothes shops are open. The vape shop. You can’t tell me these shops are essential.
There are movement and gathering restrictions in place which have progressively tightened over the week as case numbers have continued to rise. Now only 2 people are allowed to exercise together, except those from the same household. Only one person is allowed to go shopping and only once a day. (Make that list!!)
Masks are mandatory for all people over twelve in indoor areas. And now we have moved to remote learning for students in the Greater Sydney area. This came as no real surprise. Teachers by and large have been preparing for a “just in case” scenario since last year. Many teachers have kept their online classrooms running. They have shifted their resources to accessible drives in the clouds. Learning from home was do-able. but then…..
Queue suspenseful music: Dun-dun-der!
Learning from home becomes complicated!
About an hour after Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the Learning from Home orders for the Greater Sydney area, the NSW Department of Education was hit by a massive cyber attack. All those resources we had squirrelled away in the safe places linked to our portal were inaccessible! We were paralyised to get lessons ready. Email was down. Links to our corporate accounts for Zoom, MS Teams, the Google Suite, Microsoft365 were down. Everything we used our department user name for was turned off, as the tech bods tried to fix the damage.
It took until Sunday to get most things working. Let’s put that in perspective. Those people worked hard! The NSW Department of Education is one of the BIGGEST educational systems in the WORLD. With over 2000 schools, more than 50,000 teachers and in excess of 800,000 students all managed by the one system, that’s a big job and I take my hat off to them for getting it up and running so quickly!
Time to get hard?
The numbers were unexpectedly a bit lower today (only 89 new cases compared to 112 on Monday), but still high enough. The Police will be more visible telling people to go home. But still the soft option persists. Come on Gladys, we don’t need handbags in a lockdown. Let’s close the other non-essential shops. Go hard! Keep people at home!
PS: Gladys must have read my post! On Saturday, 17th she announced further restrictions in place until 30/7/21. The non-essential shops are now closed. Non-urgent construction has also been shut down.
Well done Gladys!