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The Project’s brutal lockdown outlook: ‘NSW may not get over this’

A health expert has told The Project’s Carrie Bickmore that New South Wales “might not get over” its current lockdown as the state struggles to contain the latest outbreak.

The brutal assessment was made by ABC coronavirus pundit Dr Norman Swan after Bickmore asked him about testing rates.

He added that the virus was not just in Sydney’s south west but “all over the place”.

NSW recorded 110 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, a sharp rise from the 79 on Tuesday.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian had said the 79 cases from the day before were the “green shoots” that the lockdown was working.

But once again, those green shoots were trampled as the case numbers shot up into the low hundreds on Wednesday. Worryingly, around 70 of those who tested positive had been out while infectious.

As well as the epicentre of the outbreak in Fairfield, NSW Health has said multiple cases are now cropping up in the neighbouring Canterbury-Bankstown council area as well as in Sydney’s south and west.

The Premier has pleaded with Sydneysiders to limit their movements but has noted that the impact of the increased restrictions, put in place just days ago, may not be seen for several more days.

In addition to Greater Sydney, the NSW region around Orange, Victoria and South Australia are also in delta lockdowns.

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Testing is too slow

The Project host Bickmore noted the huge queues to get tested in Adelaide but said cases were still emerging with 12 infections recorded in the state in the last 24 hours.

“What do you think is happening there? Are you concerned?” she asked Dr Swan.

The former physician replied that the response of South Australians had been “fantastic” in coming forward for testing.

“They’ve done the right thing by locking down”.

However, he said, there was a “problem” in Australia’s testing process.

That was that all test samples had to go through the time consuming process of being sent to pathology labs.

There have been complaints in NSW that results are taking days to come back.

Dr Swan said more rapid so-called antigen testing should be made available.

“It is quite common in other parts of the world and you could really unload a lot of the testing to rapid antigen testing where you get the result in 15 or 30 minutes and it costs $5 or $10, not $100.”

“There are rivers of gold flowing into pathology services who have opposed antigen testing.”

‘We might not get over this in NSW’

Dr Swan suggested NSW’s prospects of getting to zero or managing the virus might be more likely if it could find cases quicker.

“Rapid testing might be the way to go to unload the regular testing so you can allow things to open up.

“It is not a replacement for the nose swab but it could be a way to test people to ensure they’re not infectious before going into the workplaces,” he said.

“We have to work out how to ramp it up because we might not get over this in NSW.

“How will we live with this until we get 80 per cent of people vaccinated?”

Dr Swan was also asked why NSW was seemingly in a struggle to get its cases consistently below 100.

He had essentially a six word answer.

“Because they lost control of it.”

He elaborated that the contact tracers were trying their hardest but they had been “overwhelmed”.

“That doesn’t take a very high load of cases.

“Every case is maybe 100 contacts. Out in the community, and each day you are adding on 20, 30, 35 cases, in this case 40 cases today who need to be traced.

“It is an enormous workload and it has been overwhelmed, and so there are people circulating out there in the community with the virus.”

And he had a grim outlook of the current outbreak in Sydney.

“It is all over Sydney.

“We are focusing on the southwest suburbs when the virus is all over the place.”

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