Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

A 13-week lockdown: Behind the NSW border

Greater Sydney Lockdown
Greater Sydney Lockdown
Police patrol Bondi Beach as Sydney-siders prepare for three-month lockdown PHOTO: The Guardian
Avatar photo
Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

With over 900 Covid-19 cases, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berijiklian announced last week Greater Sydney would extend its current lockdown until the end of September. Regional and rural communities will have their lockdown lifted this Friday.

“We are throwing everything at this and doing everything we can, and now it is time to bunker down,” said Berijiklian.

“The reason we are extending lockdown for another month, and the reason we are imposing these additional measures in those local government areas of concern, is because the vaccine takes at least two to three weeks for the first dose to have effect.”

“On the flip side, if we see a particular local government area respond well in terms of the case numbers, we can take those areas out,” she said.

Tongan Bondi resident Frances Lolohea has already spent two months in lockdown together with her partner, Dan.

“If I didn’t have a job, I think it would be very hard to get used to just staying put,” she says.

“But compared to other states in Australia and even New Zealand, I don’t think our lockdown has been as strict.”

NSW residents can still visit a number of businesses that Kiwis can’t during the Alert Level 4 Lockdown,  including banks, liquor shops, butchers, bakeries and even outdoor gyms.

“I noticed that New Zealand, you can’t order takeaway food or you can’t have Uber eats ,” Lolohea says.

“I think people here would go crazy if they couldn’t do that. People are just so used to ordering food, and we can still go to the shops and order takeaway food and do click-and-collect shopping. So it hasn’t actually been horrible.”

However, Lolohea acknowledges not everyone will have the same lockdown experience.

Tongan Bondi resident Frances Lolohea has spent over two months in lockdown  PHOTO: Supplied

Other Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Australia have introduced additional restrictions of curfew and exercise time limits, particularly in suburbs with a higher number of cases. Frances believes some residents in these areas might think these new restrictions are “unfair”.

“We get to pretty much do whatever and still live a pretty normal life,” she says.

“I went and sat on the grass overlooking the beach, and the beach was like littered with black dots of people, all sun baking.”

“I’m not in control of what they do, but they’re just asking for them to shut the beach, because too many people are just like going there… Lying on a towel isn’t really exercise.”

The Premier’s announcement was closely followed by another anti-lockdown protest in Sydney’s CBD last weekend.

1,500 Police Officers were deployed to quell the 250 protesters who made it into the city. Public and private transport was also halted from entering the CBD in an effort to reduce the amount of protesters. 47 arrests were made and 260 fines were issued.

Over 2000 protesters led a largely peaceful protest in Brisbane, while a 4000-strong crowd in Melbourne managed to break through police ranks, with violent clashes ensuing between protesters and officers.

Lolohea feels that the Government’s mixed messaging also contributes to the frustration felt by many of the protesters. “The Federal Government says one thing, and then the Premiers of each state say another thing,” Lolohea says.

“The Federal Treasurer was saying, ‘We have to learn to live with Covid.’ But then the Premier of Victoria says, ‘No, we’re not going to live [with it]; we have to do all these lockdowns.’ It’s just super annoying and inconsistent, the messaging.”

“For people that are needing to travel for work — and some people haven’t been able to see their families because each state has their separate rules — the approach has been very divisive.”

“We don’t know who to really believe, because there’s a lot of finger pointing as well,” she says.

The NSW Premier's announcement was closely followed by an anti-lockdown protest PHOTO: BBC
1,500 police officers were deployed to disperse Sydney’s anti-lockdown protesters on the weekend  PHOTO: BBC

Some of that division also extends to discussions around vaccinations. Despite members of Lolohea’s family being both for and against the vaccine, Lolohea believes we shouldn’t “judge” others for having different beliefs.

“You hear people saying, ‘My brother doesn’t vaccinate his kids or himself. I’m not going to talk to him.’ [That’s] ridiculous. I would never let their choices override the fact that we’re family.”

Last month, the Federal Government was criticised for its slow vaccine rollout, and a blame game ensued between PM Scott Morrison and the Government’s immunisation advisors ATAGI.

Morrison subsequently accepted the blame and later apologised. “I’m certainly sorry that we haven’t been able to achieve the marks that we hoped for at the beginning of this year. Of course I am.”

“Obviously some things [are] within our control, some things… are not.”

Despite criticisms of its slow vaccine rollout with the current Delta outbreak, vaccination rates in the country have soared.  The country is currently delivering over 1 million doses a week, a rate which could see 41 million adult Australians vaccinated by Christmas this year.

By August 25, 32.95% of the NSW population were fully vaccinated, while a little over 60% have received their first dose.

Morrison has declared a “vaccination target”: once 80% of eligible Australians are vaccinated, the country will see fewer lockdowns, and international travel is touted to start again.

Until then Lolohea, who is an avid traveller, has for the most part been optimistic about her own lockdown experience. But she knows other Aussies will definitely be struggling.

She says, “We’re very lucky that we still can work from home and have a good lifestyle, be able to exercise and still keep in touch with family and friends. Like we’re fine, but I just really feel for people who aren’t so fine.”

“It would be good for everyone to go back to their somewhat normal life and try and rebuild and then see what that looks like.”

“But we’re very grateful that we’re both fine and our families are fine and just keep plodding along.”

Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity.

Stay Connected

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive daily updates direct to your inbox!

*we hate spam as much as you do