NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro went on Sunrise first thing on Thursday morning to threaten Western Sydney with harsher lockdown restrictions. It was a pretty noticeable shift in tone from when the COVID-19 outbreak was centered around Bondi, Vaucluse and the rest of the wealthy and relatively white Eastern Suburbs.

The news comes after the the state government put the local government areas (LGAs) of Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool on blast this week for supposedly not following the lockdown restrictions as closely as everyone else.

“In some parts of the city there’s no question that people are really just pushing the boundaries when it comes to the stay-at-home orders about why you can leave home. And what we’re trying to do is strengthen that,” Barilaro told Sunrise on Thursday morning.

“We need to be tougher, the messaging has to be stronger. And in those three LGAs that you touched on, it’s possible that we might have to go with further restrictions if things don’t improve.”

However, the data from NSW Health doesn’t show an extreme difference between those suburbs and the Eastern Suburbs, where the first cases popped up this time around.

Over the past four weeks until Wednesday night, there have been 105 cases of community transmission in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool LGAs combined. Compare that to the Eastern Suburbs, where 126 cases have been reported in the Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra LGAs over the same period.

On top of that, out of the 57 new exposure sites announced in the past two days, just 14 are in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown or Liverpool LGAs, which make up a sizeable chunk of Sydney.

It is true to say that the more recent cases have shifted from the east to the west, but it’s also not fair to come down harder on the southwest when this virus has already spread all over the city.

According to Fairfield City Councillor Dai Le, her neck of the woods has been like a “ghost town” as of late.

“I don’t know why the issue is that people in our community, our ethnic communities, ‘aren’t listening’, because they do,” she said on ABC News Breakfast on Thursday morning.

“I don’t know where that information comes from.”

At around the same time Barilaro was talking on Sunrise, Le told the ABC it feels like the government is looking for a scapegoat with its recent rhetoric.

“Something is going not right. Let’s not blame the people,” she added.

“I think we have to stop blaming any communities, east, south, west, whatever. It’s the leadership – the quarantining of people in the first place, then it spreads out.

“We have to stop blaming the community. I just feel like every time when there’s an issue that comes out to the south-west, our south-west area gets the spotlight and seems we’re doing the wrong thing.”

At a press conference on Wednesday Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who grew up on the North Shore to Armenian parents, also singled out Southwest Sydney.

“Can I say to the communities in those area, many have a similar background to me, please don‘t mingle with family,” she said.

However, in response to journalists’ questions about her messaging the following day Berejiklian said that “it is really important for me to say it like it is” but also added that “if I have offended anybody I apologise as it is not intentional.”

From an epidemiological perspective, Barilaro and Berejiklian’s singling out of the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool areas is also bullshit.

Professor Raina MacIntyre, a director at the UNSW’s Kirby Institute and one of the most respected epidemiologists in Australia, told ABC News Breakfast on Thursday morning: “I think it’s probably too late to be looking at targeted geographic measures, if you’re going to go harder, it has to be across the [whole] metropolitan area.”

When locals and experts alike reckon your threats are baseless, it’s probably time to stop making them.

Image: Twitter / @Sunriseon7