COVID-19 cases to surge while delivery drivers ignored for vaccine

As Sydney enters its third week of the extended lockdown, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) is demanding vaccines for workers such as food delivery drivers.

Gladys Berejiklian announced yesterday that the lockdown of Greater Sydney, Wollongong and Blue Mountain’s area would extend for another week.

Today’s cases in southwest Sydney was said to be substantially higher than previous case figures.

COVID-19 testing remains to be plentiful as opposed to vaccines

The three LGAs concentrated in cases are that of Liverpool, Fairfield and Canterbury-Bankstown.

This was highlighted in data from NSW Health which records 11 cases in these LGAs within the last 2 days, proving the contagiousness of the Delta variant – which has spread from Sydney’s eastern suburbs to the south-west in the space of two weeks.

Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely “The harder the lockdown is, the quicker it is as a general rule“.

With five million residents already in lockdown, the demand for food-delivery services progresses.

Unions are encouraging delivery drivers to join frontline workers in being prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine as Berejiklian advises the public to reduce their mobility – forcing restaurants affected by lockdown to a take-away menu.

A multitude of drivers who are not eligible for the vaccine, are working each night during the stay at home orders.

But, how does the government expect delivery drivers to be protected?

The Transport Workers Union’s Assistant National Secretary, Nick McIntosh, told SBS News that members have expressed “great concern” for their health working through the lockdown,

“[They’re concerned about] not being a priority in the vaccination queue, not being provided in many cases adequately with personal protective equipment by the companies [and] not having any sick leave or anything to fall back on.”

These concerns of Union members are valid, especially when it was recently leaked that year 12 students of Hunters Hill elite St Joseph’s College received the Pfizer vaccine.

“We’re in the situation where they are essential workers that have just been totally ignored and are right on the frontline as this pandemic spreads,” McIntosh stated.

Not only are drivers at risk of being infected, but are also worried of losing their jobs if they develop symptom, or are deemed a close contact.

They are put in the position of: make money but with no protection or stay home with no financial aid.

As most drivers are migrants or do not speak English as their first language, this further contributes to challenges in communicating vital health messaging.

The government has enabled a financial system for anyone in Australia, directed by health authorities. to isolate for 14 days to receive the pandemic leave disaster payment of $1,500.

This is inclusive of residents on temporary visas who have the right work.

But what if you don’t have that type of visa? Many Australian citizens and businesses have already been deemed inadequate to receive the disaster payment.

Business owner of Damascus Restaurant in Bass Hill, and Syrian refugee, Talal Almardou, said via translator that he’s worried his restaurant won’t survive another week.

“My hard work for years, it’s going in days. This shop is going to go broke, and I’m going to lose this work because of all the lockdowns.”

My Almardoud does not qualify the grants for small businesses impacted by the lockdown scheme because of his visa status, despite residing in Australia since 2013.

McIntosh said that corporations like Uber EATS and Deliveroo have an obligation to look after their employees especially because they are raking in millions annually,

“It’s no good if you’re not going to get paid to take that leave to get it and there’s no compensation if you get sick as a result of getting it.”

How can we expect the spread of the Delta variant to decrease when frontline workers are being diminished?