The COVID case that has sent two northern NSW regions into snap lockdowns was a crew member from TV’s I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!.
The NSW government announced seven-day lockdowns of the Tweed and Byron Bay shires on Tuesday after it emerged a positive case had spent days visiting shops and other venues in the regions while infectious.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the case was an essential worker who flew from Sydney for Ballina after initially testing negative to the virus. Her positive test came back on Monday.
The production company behind the reality show, which is being filmed in the NSW northern rivers, has since confirmed that one of its crew has contracted the virus.
“This discovery was made through the rigorous testing regime implemented by our COVID-safe plan,” an ITV Studios Australia spokesperson said in a statement.
“The crew member is fully vaccinated and was wearing PPE while at work.”
All of the crew member’s close contacts have been identified and are isolating while they await test results.
“We are working with NSW Health to ensure all necessary steps are taken in relation to contact tracing, testing and further communication to anyone that needs to isolate,” ITV Studios Australia’s spokesperson said.
But the case has also sparked anger in the region. Liberal MP Catherine Cusack said the state government had failed to adequately protect the regions.
She said the regions, which have considerably lower vaccination rates than Sydney, had been let down by the public health orders.
“To begin with, the definition of an essential worker – which is apparently the reason she was able to be up here – in my view is way too elastic in such a sensitive area,” she told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday.
“There is no way any risk like that should be taken in relation to that community.”
As of Tuesday, some 60.9 per cent of eligible Byron Shire residents had received one dose of the vaccine, and 34.9 per cent had had two.
That’s well below the NSW average of 82.46 per cent first dose and 53.0 per cent double dose.
Vaccination in the Tweed is also below the state average with 71.7 per cent of people getting a first dose, while 45 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Ms Cusack said the Tweed Council had asked the NSW government not to approve production of the TV show.
“But the health minister went ahead and approved it anyway and now we’ve got two LGAs in lockdown,” she said.
The lockdown of Bryon Bay and Tweed also prompted the Queensland government to snap closed its border bubble, which reopened only just over a week ago.
From 1am Wednesday, Byron and Tweed shire residents are allowed into Queensland only for essential work, emergency volunteering and other limited essential purposes.
Previously they had been allowed to cross into Queensland for work, education, compassionate care or essential shopping, provided they’ve had one vaccine dose.
NSW had another 1022 local virus cases and 10 more fatalities on Tuesday. The deaths of eight men and two women aged from their 50s to their 90s took the state’s toll from its Delta outbreak to 255.