News Western NSW ‘under strain’ as regional cases surge

Western NSW ‘under strain’ as regional cases surge

A man from Walgett in north-west NSW has tested positive to COVID. Photo: AAP
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COVID-19 is continuing its spread throughout western NSW with the towns of Dubbo and Walgett recording 35 new cases and an infection detected in Bourke.

NSW posted another grim pandemic record on Monday, with 478 new local coronavirus cases and eight more fatalities across the state.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian described the spike in infections as “disturbingly high”.

“Do we want the case numbers to come down?” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Are we going to live in fear and have case numbers continue to go up?

“We will see the numbers come down when people stay home and when people don’t move about unless they absolutely have to.”

On Monday, there were at least 99 active cases in the Western NSW Health District, with 91 of those in Dubbo.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro issued a message to residents of Dubbo and surrounds to follow the health orders and to avoid travel between communities.

He acknowledged that regional communities are closely connected, but urged residents to “minimise mobilisation”.

AMA NSW president Danielle McMullen said the health system was under strain in the state’s west, particularly given the number of staff who had been stood down awaiting test results.

“The situation in Dubbo is really concerning… our system is really under strain,” she told the Nine Network on Monday.

Despite the new cases, Mr Barilaro said he was confident the health system would cope.

Western NSW Local Health District Chief Executive Scott McLachlan said it was concerning how many people who were infectious were still moving around the community.

“The vast majority of cases are Aboriginal and we’ve got nearly 40 per cent of the cases are kids between 10 and 19, so this is a really serious warning for parents and kids running around,” Mr McLachlan said.

Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders said the cases were “of concern”, although testing numbers remained high with almost a thousand across the region on Sunday.

Mr Saunders confirmed that the meat works group Fletchers International – one of the biggest employers in Dubbo – will close its abattoir for the week.

There were no cases connected to the meat works on Monday.

There are 57 exposure sites across western NSW, with a scout hall in Dubbo and café in Orange among the venues of concern.

  • Find an updated list of NSW exposure sites here

Mr Barilaro said rules would tighten from Saturday with anyone travelling to regional NSW requiring a permit and just one person allowed to travel to a second home and only for urgent maintenance, repairs or animal welfare.

He also moved to clear up confusion regarding travel for people living in the regions, explaining the five kilometre travel limit from home did not apply if there were no shops nearby.

“If you have to go to the neighbouring LGA to go grocery shopping, there is no limit if that is the only option that you have,” Mr Barilaro said.

Fragments of the virus continue to be detected throughout regional NSW with more found in Bourke, Lennox Head and Parkes.

In other regions, to 8pm on Sunday night there were 16 cases recorded in the Hunter New England area, although those cases were either close contacts of existing cases or in isolation.

There were also two new cases on the Central Coast, two in the Illawarra, while there were no cases on the north coast, Tamworth or Armidale areas, which Mr Barilaro described as “a good sign”.

Parliament in doubt over ACT lockdown

The seven-day lockdown of the nation’s capital has been extended for another two weeks until at least September 2.

On Monday, 19 new local cases were confirmed in the territory, with health authorities bracing for more.

Federal parliament is due to return next week, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr wants Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reconsider its urgency in light of the growing outbreak.

“My preference would be that they don’t unless they absolutely have to. And if they did, it would need to be a very minimal sitting and absolutely COVID safe,” Mr Barr said.

The ACT health rules did not prevent parliament from sitting because it was considered an essential workplace, but Mr Barr has discussed the possibility of delaying parliament with both federal leaders.

Snap lockdown in the NT

Darwin, Palmerston and the Katherine region in the Northern Territory entered a snap 72-hour lockdown from midday on Monday, after a case of COVID was detected in the community.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the order would allow the territory to “buy time” and to lessen the risk of the virus getting into high-risk Indigenous communities in the top end.

“When we don’t know everything we have to start by assuming the worst,” Mr Gunner said.

Vaccine mandatory for Qld workers

Queensland recorded no new cases of COVID on Monday, as authorities move to strengthen border controls.

From Friday, essential workers living in NSW will be required to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to cross the border.

Chief health officer Jeannette Young said most have already been vaccinated as they are emergency, police and healthcare workers.

“So I suspect there won’t be many, but just in case there are I have put that deadline in by Friday that they must be vaccinated, otherwise they cannot, even though they are essential, cross the border,” Dr Young said.

‘Harder’ lockdown for Melbourne

Meanwhile, the sixth lockdown for Melburnians has also been extended for a further fortnight, with even more rules to be enforced until at least September 2.

Premier Daniel Andrews was furious on Monday after blatant breaches of the rules, as well as multiple unlinked cases, forced health authorities to recommend further restrictions.

-with AAP