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Residents on Sydney’s northern beaches have welcomed the end of a tough three-week lockdown and praised the “amazing” community solidarity that helped avert a disastrous outbreak.
The past three weeks proved an immense challenge for the northern beaches, particularly the northernmost zone. The lockdown ruined Christmas holiday plans and robbed local businesses of revenue during their busiest trading period.
“It’s the sense of time, it slips away – you’re just one day to the next,” Libby Armstrong, the owner of Beachside Bookshop in Avalon told the Guardian on Sunday.
“We’re very fortunate we’re in the business we are because a good book has a long shelf life, and a lot of people during the first lockdown rediscovered the joys of reading, and that carries through.”
Despite the continued emergence of cases linked to the Avalon cluster, the stay-at-home order finally lifted on Sunday. The whole northern beaches region is now subject to the same Covid-19 restrictions as the rest of greater Sydney.
Armstrong said it was quiet at Avalon. People were either enjoying Sunday’s beautiful weather at the beach or had left, she said.
“Anyone that could, they really did leave town,” she said. “The village is quiet today, so not throngs of partymakers from out of suburb or anything.”
Kieran Dolly, who owns the general store in Palm Beach, said it was the same there.
Dolly predicts his store will return to normal within a week. But the three-week lockdown had taken a toll: “It was pretty bad – 10% of normal [trade]. I’ve been here for 27 years, so I’ve seen everything … It was bad.”
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, thanked residents for their efforts.
She said the decision to lock down the region just before Christmas, while difficult, had helped avert a “major outbreak of substantial disastrous proportions”.
“A huge thank you to the community of the northern beaches,” she tweeted. “Your sacrifice and efforts have helped us manage the recent outbreak.”
Melissa, who asked that her surname not be used, was working at the Avalon fashion store Costume on Sunday. She was buoyant.
The past few weeks had been tough, she said.
“I’m feeling really happy. It’s so good. I work in Warringah Mall as well, so I could actually go into work and back, but it’s been really hard.”
The NSW government is still assessing what financial support should be provided to northern beaches businesses.
A $100 “dine and discover” voucher scheme for residents announced in last year’s budget is being fast-tracked for northern beaches residents. But it is unclear whether the support will extend beyond that.
“We’re assessing the situation with businesses in the northern beaches, especially the northern zone,” Berejiklian said. “The treasurer announced recently that the voucher system would be piloted first and foremost in the northern beaches area.”
One positive to emerge from the lockdown, residents said, was a real sense of solidarity. The community came together, took the restrictions seriously, and managed to emerge relatively unscathed.
“I was amazed by how many people went out and got retested when there was that extra case … That just shows that a lot of people wanted to do the right thing,” Armstrong said.
The Avalon cluster has grown to 150 cases. Despite the end of the lockdown, new cases are still emerging. On Sunday, NSW announced another new locally transmitted case linked to the Avalon cluster.
But Berejiklian said the risk level in the northern beaches region was on par with the rest of Sydney, allowing restrictions to be eased.
“The health experts and the efforts of the community really got us to where we are today, but we need to be aware that the remnants of the disease and the virus are still there in the community and we need to be ever-vigilant,” she said.
“The only difference today, fortunately for the people of the northern beaches – and again we’re very grateful – is that the risk posed in the northern beaches is no more than the risk posed in greater Sydney. That risk is still there.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Locked-down northern beaches residents free at last and proud of ‘amazing’ solidarity | New South Wales