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NSW declares emergency, recommends supermarket workers get vaccine priority

NSW state premier Gladys Berejiklian and chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant have declared the Sydney outbreak a “national emergency” and have called on the federal government to shift its vaccine strategy to focus on workers in the state’s most impacted areas in an attempt to get the delta virus under control.

“There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping they would at this stage,” said Berejiklian.

“It is fairly apparent that we will not be close to [opening] next Friday.”

This means retailers defined as ‘non-critical’ in Sydney are further away from reopening, and will need to continue to rely on business support measures for a currently undefined amount of time.

Berejiklian’s focus is on getting younger Australians – people between 20 and 40 years old – vaccinated as quickly as possible as they are generally the ones working the ‘critical’ jobs in places such as supermarkets.

Chant’s recommendation is for the federal government to allocate the country’s Pfizer stock to Sydney’s young workers, and work to dispel the ‘mythology’ of AstraZeneca being a lesser option.

SDA secretary Bernie Smith welcomed the recommendations, but said this information was clear “weeks ago”.

“The crisis we are now seeing unfold in Sydney, with its national implications, could have been reduced if the government had acted on the SDA’s recommendations delivered repeatedly over many weeks and culminating in a letter to the Premier last weekend, jointly with the Australian Retailers Association and the National Retail Association,” Smith said.

“The Morrison government says that supplies of Astra Zeneca are plentiful and that one million doses of Pfizer are now arriving in the country every week. They must now ensure NSW gets the doses needed to vaccinate essential workers immediately.

“If that is the case, there can now be no excuse NOT to give essential retail workers priority access to vaccination.”

This story is developing and more will be added as information comes to light.

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