A regional Greens MP says residents of the Northern Rivers in New South Wales will be “sitting ducks” if restrictions on who can travel to the region from Sydney are not tightened.
A person from Sydney who had authority to be in northern NSW has tested positive to COVID.
The person arrived in Ballina on Saturday morning at 8.45am on Virgin flight 1141.
Health authorities said the person was infectious over the weekend and on Monday in the Byron, Ballina and Tweed areas.
Two residents previously tested positive for COVID and a third person was infectious in the community earlier this month and has since left the region.
Ballina MP Tamara Smith says there needs to be a moratorium on people coming to the region and heavy fines for those who do.
“As Sydney opens up, we are sitting ducks until we get our vaccination rates where they need to be, and we have not had the supply so we are behind.”
Health authorities say person authorised to travel
Northern NSW Local Health District acting chief executive Lynne Weir said the newest case had a valid exemption to be in the region.
“Most people have a COVID test before they come to the area and there’s surveillance testing being done for authorised workers,” she said.
People are currently allowed to travel from Sydney to regional areas for several reasons such as essential work, inspecting property and moving between two residences.
Those people need to register for travel, but there are some people who are exempted from applying for a travel permit due to the nature of their work or role.
In a statement, NSW Health said, “If you live in or are staying in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains and Wollongong, you must have a COVID-19 test in the 7 days before working if your workplace is 50km or more outside Greater Sydney”.
“You do not have to self-isolate when you are waiting for your test results,” the statement continued.
“You must abide by the stay-at-home rules when not working.”
Lockdown under consideration
Deputy Premier John Barilaro says the government is considering a lockdown for Ballina, Byron Bay and Tweed Heads.
“We know that there was a lot of movement by this individual as part of their work, so we’ll evaluate this morning and have more to say at 11 o’clock if decisions are made,” he said.
Byron Shire mayor Michael Lyon says the situation is an “absolute joke”.
“I can not believe we’re in this situation, completely avoidable, again. [Potentially having] businesses shutting down again, school holidays ruined again, it beggars belief,” he said.
Ms Smith and Mr Lyon called for rapid antigen testing to be introduced for people flying into the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport in an effort to prevent people with COVID entering the community.
Rapid antigen testing is not as accurate as standard COVID testing but the results can be delivered within minutes.
“We can trial that and it can have other applications too in terms of potential freedoms up where when the state opens up,” Mr Lyon said.
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