Covid-positive woman who sparked Byron Bay lockdown now faces charges

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A Sydney woman who travelled to Byron Bay to work on the reality TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!’ and then tested positive for Covid-19 is facing criminal charges.

The fully vaccinated 31-year-old had a permit to travel to the area for work-related purposes only.

But police say she breached the conditions of her permit when she went to pubs and shops in Byron Bay and Kingscliff over the weekend.

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Police allege she failed to check in to those venues using QR codes.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday welcomed the news, brushing off criticism from her backbench MP Catherine Cusack that the government should not have allowed the woman into Byron in the first place.

‘(This person was) there only to work, but what they did was breach the health orders,’ she said.

‘The system worked. It was people doing the wrong thing and I’m really glad police have charged them.’

Ms Cusack called for Health Minister Brad Hazzard to resign over the incident, saying that letting a TV crew film in the regional area was an unnecessary risk.

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The Rushcutters Bay woman had only recently had her second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.

The venues she attended are considered a high risk for transmission.

The amount of time she spent at the venues, plus the Byron area’s low vaccination rates, also justify the decision to send Byron Shire and Tweed council areas back into lockdown on Tuesday, Dr Chant said.

‘We want to take a precautionary role for rural areas,’ the state’s top doctor explained.

No new cases in the area were reported overnight.

Byron Shire and Tweed are both lagging well behind the state average when it comes to vaccination coverage.

Dr Chant said the government was working to combat misinformation and to address people’s concerns about the vaccine.

But Ms Cusack earlier told Sydney radio 2GB that the low vaccination rates were also due to supply problems.

‘We just haven’t had any access or any of that attention because we haven’t been a Covid hotspot,’ she said.

‘Please recognise that the regions have been left behind.’

Elsewhere, another case has been diagnosed on the mid-north coast after Kempsey was sent back into a week’s lockdown on Tuesday.

Dr Chant declined to give specifics of the cases that have prompted the lockdown, but suggested that the area’s low vaccination coverage and presence of vulnerable communities influenced the decision.

Elsewhere in the regions, Ms Berejiklian warned that cases in the Illawarra area are on the rise after 62 people in the Illawarra Shoalhaven local health district tested positive in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.

Hunter New England had 45 new cases, the Central Coast had 35, western NSW had five, and the far west had three.

Of the five people whose deaths were reported on Wednesday, one was from Kiama and another from Wollongong.

Authorities are also warning people in Oberon to be on alert after fragments of the virus were detected in sewage.

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