Sydney construction lockdown ‘disastrous’, business body says

Business advocacy group Business NSW today called on the government of New South Wales (NSW) to end the Covid-sparked construction shutdown in Greater Sydney a week earlier, on 26 July instead of 30 July as earlier indicated, calling the shutdown "disastrous for the economy".

All non-critical construction work was ordered to pause from this Monday, 19 July for two weeks amid official alarm at rising coronavirus cases. Health authorities recorded 112 new cases yesterday from 83,477 tests. All but one of the cases were in the Greater Sydney region with its population of some 5 million.

"It is estimated the construction industry closedown is going to cost the NSW economy between $800 million and $1 billion a week, in addition to the wider lockdown making this a $2 billion per week problem for businesses," said Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter.

"Our economy relies on construction, and its supports hundreds of thousands of people and their livelihoods. We would like to see a re-opening of building sites early, in a safe but reduced way."

Allowing construction to resume a week earlier would give businesses that did not have a Covid Safe plan time to develop one, and give contractors the chance to order and receive materials in time for the industry restart.

He pointed out that when faced with its Covid outbreak the state of Victoria allowed 25% of the regular workforce on site for large construction projects, and a maximum of five workers and a supervisor for smaller jobs.

"For outdoor sites, we should allow a set number of workers per hectare, considering outdoor transmissions of the virus is less of a risk than indoors," Hunter said.

"Everyone is aware of the dangers of the Delta variant, however the current blanket close down of this industry is disastrous for the economy, with many businesses forced to permanently close."

Australian broadcaster ABC today reported that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had refused to confirm that the Greater Sydney lockdown would end on July 30.

"It’s really important for us to not talk about what might happen. Once the number of cases and how they’re transmitting comes through over the weekend and early next week, we’ll have a better sense of what July 31 looks like," she said.

Image: Sydney CBD view from Pyrmont at sunset (Maksym Kozlenko/CC BY-SA 4.0)

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