• Mon. Oct 24th, 2022

The reason Sydney cluster isn’t as scary as it could be

Dec 21, 2020

If the Sydney outbreak spreads not far beyond the citys northern beaches, it wont just be the states contact tracers that wed have to thank it will also be the disinclination of locals in the area to leave their hood. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today, somewhat diplomatically, that the northern beaches community was “cohesive”.
Sydneysiders actually have another term for the region of 250,000 people that begins at the harbour in Manly and juts out towards the central coast – the “insular peninsula”.
Comedians have even taken to social media to explain the phenomena of the Sydney region that keeps itself to itself to such an extent even one of the world’s most transmissible viruses struggles to find an escape route.
While “patient zero” at the centre of the Avalon coronavirus cluster is yet to be known, every single coronavirus case in recent weeks is either in, or has a direct route back to, the well to do northern beaches.
For instance, the one case in the central coast was found to have taken the ferry from the tip of the peninsula to the region that adjoins Sydney to the north.
Of the various cafes, coffee shops, RSLs, gyms, restaurants and supermarkets where confirmed cases went to – potentially while infectious – the majority of those are in the northern beaches. Indeed, many, but not all, of those cases are confined to the former Pittwater local government area including suburbs such as Avalon, Freshwater, Narrabeen and Newport.
These beachside suburbs contain some of Sydney’s most expensive real estate.
“Those of you who know Sydney will know that the peninsula is a very cohesive community that tends to stick to itself,” PM Morrison said today.
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Chief health officer Paul Kelly echoed this commenting that the area was indeed “quite insular”.
“They tend to stay where they are in that peninsula. So all of the cases so far, all of them, the 83 locally acquired cases that have happened since the December 17 in New South Wales have been linked back to the cluster,” he said.
One of the reasons that the northern beaches seems to some to have been effectively semi self-isolating for years is geography. Quite simply, it’s not the easiest place to get too.
From the city, the famous Manly ferry is by far the quickest way to get to the southernmost part of the region avoiding what would be a circuitous journey via the north shore.
Avalon, in the north, is an hour’s drive and some 40km from the Sydney CBD. The many indentations in the harbour and national parks do their best to cut off the northern beaches from the rest of Sydney with only a limited number of roads in and out. These include the Spit Bridge which many were so keen to raise – and not lower again – when the outbreak first became known.
It has no train services and any bus that ventures south of the harbour terminates abruptly just metres from the Harbour Bridge as if fearful to go any deeper into Sydney proper.
“If there’s somewhere least likely to spread this thing it’s the bloody northern beaches,” said Sydney comedian Neel Kolhatkar in a video he posted to social media site TikTok.
“There’s one road to get there, the Wakehurst Parkway, and after dark it’s the scariest bloody road on the planet that even Ivan Milat would be like ‘nup, it’s too much’.”
In the video, Mr Kolhatkar said the northern beaches was often referred to as a “bubble” which “public educated ethnics” chiefly remained outside of.
Of course, there have been a few alerts outside of the northern beaches. One was in Penrith in Sydney’s west, about as far geographically as you can get from Avalon and still be in Sydney.
“They were probably buying a slave,” Mr Kolhatkar quipped.
The NSW Government is still on high alert that the virus could take hold beyond the ritzy region of Sydney’s north.
But if it does remain contained, it may well be another sign of the northern beaches’ ongoing insularity.