“It’s stupid,” said Prarthana, a schoolteacher from Sydney’s inner west while she enjoyed a Friday evening wine in a pub in busy Newtown
“It doesn’t make any sense because what if somebody on this side of the road gets infectious and walks around Sydney?”
When most cities have gone into lockdown, restrictions have finished where the city itself peters out.
Not so in Sydney’s lockdown which kicks in at midnight. Just four metres to the east of where Prarthana is sitting with a glass of red, down the middle of always thronged King St, is where the lockdown boundary will begin.
People who live on Prarthana’s side of the road, like her, can go to pubs, shop ‘til they drop and work up a sweat at the gym. People who live on the other side of the road will have to stay at home, with just a few exceptions, for the next seven days.
King Street is the thoroughfare split in two by Sydney’s seven day lockdown.
“I don’t understand the logic of where they draw the line,” said Prarthana.
“You’re in the same locality, it’s just man-made boundaries. The virus doesn’t know it’s the border of a local government area (LGA).”
Bizarre lockdown boundary splits Newtown in two
NSW now has 65 cases in its growing Bondi Covid-19 cluster. A further 11 cases were reported in the 24 hours to 8pm last night with 17 more announced since then.
On Friday morning, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced stay at home orders for four local government areas, where cases have been concentrated.
People who live or work in the Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and City of Sydney LGAs, essentially Sydney’s CBD and eastern beachside suburbs, can only leave home to shop for much needed goods, medical care, exercise or essential work and education until 11:59pm next Friday.
It’s not the first time the NSW Government has locked down only a chunk of the city. In January, the Northern Beaches council area was hived off form the rest of the city, some parts of it for three weeks.
But the geography of the northern beaches, which has few roads in and out, meant it was a relatively easy carve out. It had for a long time jokingly been known as the “insular peninsula”.
It’s not so easy this time around.
Newtown, one of Sydney’s most well-known dining and entertainment districts, lies slap bang on the border of the City of Sydney and Inner West councils.
From midnight an invisible lockdown wall will divide one side of King Street from the other.
Confusion from locals, workers
Locals and workers news.com.au talked to were perplexed and, in some cases, frustrated at the seemingly arbitrary nature of the new rules.
Some had no idea the councils even changed down the middle of the street.
“We don’t know if we can have people eating in or not tomorrow. We’re confused,” said one staff member who worked in a restaurant on the City of Sydney side of the road.
The Town Hall Hotel, known as the Townie, already has signs up saying it will be closed “until further notice” from midnight.
While it, and other usually heaving pubs like The Bank and Newtown Hotel, will also close, just metres away equally large pubs on the Inner West LGA side of the road can remain open throughout the lockdown welcoming in punters.
“Covid doesn’t discriminate depending on what side of the road you’re on,” said Norb, who was sitting with his friend Jan on a park bench in the relative freedom of the Inner West side of the asphalt.
“It’s ridiculous, how can they draw a line through it instead of just going it’s one area?”
Jan was also baffled. She’d heard that the government had indeed declared stay at home orders for all of Newtown, which does not appear to be the case.
“Everyone’s confused and so no one knows how to do the right thing. It shouldn’t be based on technical differences like LGA boundaries.
“I thinks Gladys Berejiklian is just delaying the inevitable. I understand from the economic point of view – but just call it, get it done earlier rather than delaying it and then it becomes worse.”
Amy Khan and Sabrina Little were tending to the homewares at Octopus Designs, a gift shop on the City of Sydney side of King St. But there were few customers to tend to as most people scurried home ahead of the lockdown deadline.
“Newtown is such an integrated place, it shouldn’t be split into two,” Ms Khan told news.com.au.
The store would remain open even though residents on its side of the road have to stay indoors most of the time. While pubs have to shut, shops of any ilk can trade.
“I think it will be quiet this weekend but after that people will come in.
“That’s what happened when all of Sydney was in lockdown. They’d have a wander past while getting some exercise and then pop in.”
Ms Little said the other states would have been in a full lockdown by now.
“Sydney likes to wait it out until the last minute but it think it’s now necessary to calm down the whole situation.
“Besides,” said Ms Little, who was not keen on a later, longer lockdown, “I have wedding to go to in two weeks so I just want lockdown to be stopped by then.”
Prarthana said she was going to have a read of her book, finish her drink and then head off.
She was conscious that people on the other side of King St wouldn’t be able to enjoy such simple pleasures in a few hours.
“I don’t want it to look like I’m partying and celebrating when other people have to stay at home”.