Traffic on two Sydney CBD bridges was blockaded by a convoy of trucks on Saturday (pictured)
Co-ordinated rallies have erupted across Sydney demanding tough Covid lockdown restrictions be lifted – with trucks blockading the city’s bridges and protesters clashing with police.
A convoy of trucks stretching hundreds of metres caused havoc for commuters on the Anzac Bridge on Saturday afternoon with similar scenes at the Harbour Bridge.
Simultaneously in the city’s south-west – where locals have been hit with harsher restrictions than elsewhere – hundreds of protesters flooded a community park in Bankstown.
The protesters directed their anger at NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian chanting ‘Freedom, Freedom’, ‘No to the vaccine’, and ‘P*** off Gladys’ as they marched through Paul Keating Park.
The rally organised over social media was expected to attracted a thousand strong crowd but the smaller numbers that turned up from the outset just after 3pm found themselves outmanned by police.
One Bankstown local said the protesters were furious that already severe lockdown restrictions in the south-west were going to be toughened.
‘People have lost their jobs and lost their freedom. I’m a truck driver how am I going to rent my truck? Or feed my family,’ the 38-year-old, who asked to go by his initial M, told Daily Mail Australia.
He said those in Sydney’s south-west felt they were being unfairly targeted by the government.
‘When Bondi got the virus why didn’t they close those areas off?’ he said.
‘We’re not allowed to go there but they can come here. If the government is really so concerned why don’t they lock everyone down the same?’
Lockdown orders are being tightened in three Sydney council areas, retail is being restricted and construction paused as NSW records a COVID-19 death and 111 new community cases.
Traffic was brought to standstill on the Anzac Bridge in the Sydney CBD (pictured) on Saturday afternoon as construction workers protested harsh new Covid lockdown rules
Police stop one of the protesters at Bankstown’s Paul Keating Park on Saturday (pictured)
From 11.59pm on Saturday, Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool council residents are not allowed to leave their local government areas until July 30.
At least 80 per cent of cases have come from the southwestern area, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Saturday.
The only people from those areas allowed to leave their locality are those who work in health and emergency services, including aged and disability care.
Tougher restrictions also apply to the entire Greater Sydney lockdown region.
From Sunday, only critical retailers such as supermarkets, pharmacies and banks will be allowed to open.
Other retailers will have to operate with ‘click and collect’ or takeaway.
Construction sites, large or small, will also be shut.
M said the ban on construction work was particularly devastating for him and many of his friends.
‘Now I’m out of work for two weeks. Whose going to pay my rent or the $800 school fees for my two kids. Is the government going to pay that?’
A convoy of trucks streamed across the Harbour Bridge on Saturday afternoon (pictured) disrupting traffic
‘I have two elderly parents and I can’t even visit them to make sure they’re looked after’.
‘Australians need to get together and protest this. Stand up to the government,’ he said.
As the protest was going on commuters making their way through the CBD were met with a massive convoy of trucks, utes and tradie vans blockading traffic in protest of the new rules.
The stream of construction vehicles continuously honked their horns and slowed traffic to a crawl as they made their way through the city and across the Anzac Bridge and Harbour Bridge.
The deafening chorus caused Sydney residents to flock to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to ask what was going on as the convoy made their way past inner-city apartment buildings .
‘Trying to find out what what is happening #truckconvoy,’ one person wrote.
According to a statement from Premier Gladys Berejiklian released on Saturday afternoon construction will be halted city-wide form Monday.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian acknowledged many people would be upset by the new restrictions, but said the decisions had not been made lightly.
The data modelling based on more than 400 exposure sites indicated everyone in Sydney is at risk, the premier said.
She defended the measures taken to curb the outbreak so far, saying they had prevented ‘thousands and thousands’ of cases and the further restrictions were a ‘no-regrets policy’.
The harsher measures were prompted by the persistent numbers of people infectious in the community before they were diagnosed.
At least 29 of the 111 new cases announced on Saturday were infectious before going into isolation, a number authorities say is too high.
‘We are seeing some cases still diagnosed late, but we need to see that number get down, it is far too high and that is the basis for why we have recommended much more extensive actions to reduce those interactions,’ NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said.
Workplaces are a key area where new infections are being seeded, she added.
Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter supports the need for a tougher health response but says the economic fallout will be immense.
‘There’s no sugar coating that it will have a huge impact on all businesses right across NSW,’ he told AAP.
The shutdown of the construction sector alone will mean a loss of $800 million to $1 billion per week.
There is good financial support available but it will not cover all losses and some businesses will not survive, Mr Hunter said.
He highlighted the national economic impact of the Sydney shutdown, saying the region accounted for about a third of Australia’s GDP.
Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey called for the revival of JobKeeper to give workers and employers ‘certainty and security rather than ambiguity and confusion’.
The Sydney Harbour was clogged with a stream of trucks and tradie utes on Saturday afternoon (pictured)
‘Jobkeeper is the answer. It provides all affected workers with a liveable income of $1500 per fortnight while maintaining the connection to their employer,’ he said in a statement.
‘The ever changing criteria and levels of support payment from the Commonwealth and NSW governments are confusing and bewildering.’
NSW and the federal government unveiled financial support for workers and businesses on Tuesday.
The state expanded its business grants and either cut or deferred payroll taxes for most companies.
Workers who have lost eight or more hours a week as a result of the lockdown will be able to apply for federal support through Services Australia for up to $600 per week.
On Saturday, Ms Berejiklian said businesses did not need to stress about cashflow problems.
‘Over and above what the federal government has given, we are giving billions and billions extra. Everyone is able to get those payments if you are an individual or you can’t go to work anymore,’ she said.
‘Even if it takes a few weeks for businesses to get that money come through the door, at least when they are dealing with financial institutions and others, those institutions can be rest assured that that money is coming through the door.’
Businesses can go to Services Australia at servicesaustralia.gov.au to apply for support or Service NSW at service.nsw.gov.au for assistance.