Tweed Shire Councillor James Owen is calling for a “ring of steel” to be put up around Greater Sydney in a bid to protect rural and regional NSW from the state’s COVID-19 outbreak.
It comes as those in the Byron, Ballina, Lismore and Richmond Valley Shires wake to their first day of a seven-day lockdown, following a positive coronavirus case in Byron Bay.
A Sydney man spent several days out and about in the popular tourist town while infectious, prompting the State’s Chief Health Officer to plunge the northern shires into lockdown.
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Councillor Owen is now calling for the NSW Premier and Minister for Health to act quickly to stop the highly contagious Delta variant from spreading to the Tweed, which has been spared of any cases for the moment.
“I am gravely concerned that the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading to rural and regional NSW,” he said.
“I am worried that it is only a matter of time before an outbreak occurs here in the Tweed Shire, unless decisive action is taken to stop the spread.
“With the increasing daily number of COVID cases in Greater Sydney, now is the time to act to protect rural and regional NSW.
“We do not want people from Greater Sydney travelling to rural and regional NSW. Nothing would be more devastating, and catastrophic, to our personal lives, our local businesses, our local economy, and our local health system, than a COVID outbreak and subsequent lockdown.”
Cr Owen said NSW should follow in the footsteps of the Victorian ‘ring of steel’ model, which successfully separated locked-down Melbourne and the rest of the state in 2020.
“The Tweed Shire is particularly vulnerable, with a high number of elderly and Aboriginal residents,” he said.
“A ‘ring of steel’ will also assist to preserve our current ‘border bubble’ with QLD, and maintain our important interconnectedness with the Gold Coast and South East Queensland.
Queensland Authorities are closely monitoring the situation, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk not ruling out pausing the travel bubble if the outbreak continues to spread closer to home.
“The further north the virus travels is alarming for us so we’ll be watching that incredibly carefully,” the Premier said.
“So we’ve already had those border patrols and border controls in place but if we have to go harder we will.”