Communities across regional NSW will learn today (Thursday 26 August) if their time in lockdown is to continue past Saturday.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has been championing a local government by local government area approach to any further lockdown extension, allowing greater freedom to council areas without active COVID-19 cases, not bounded by areas with active cases and without any positive sewage fragments.
However, faced with increasing case numbers across NSW, he said those hopes were fading.
“I’m not as confident as I was that we will be able to lift restrictions,” he told regional journalists yesterday.
“The Government and the crisis committee will be considering what happens beyond Saturday. We haven’t made a decision about what happens in regional or rural areas.
“Like last week, we’ll make that decision sooner rather than later and give people plenty of notice.”
He flatly denied speculation that a six-week extension was on the cards.
“I can assure you, that will not be the case,” he said.
Mr Barilaro’s comments followed the discovery of high level COVID-19 fragments in the sewage at Merimbula on the NSW Far South Coast.
He said the Merimbula sample was at a high level that “clearly shows that someone is in the community with the virus”, and described the South Coast as an area that worried him.
“My concern is there is still a level of movement out of Canberra and maybe even Sydney,” he said. “I can’t quantify that, but it’s a concern.
“We still have authorised workers (moving between regions) – truck drivers, construction workers, health workers and people in disability can do that.
“We also had the mass exodus out of Canberra when their lockdown approached.
“Anything could’ve triggered this (sewage fragments in Merimbula).
To stop further cases, Mr Barilaro said he was willing to “go harder” on workers travelling into the regions if they weren’t, “by a very narrow definition”, essential.
He said vaccinations would be ramped up across southern NSW as a result of increasing concerns.
“We will be ramping up vaccinations in Bega, Queanbeyan and Goulburn – up to three or four times the number they are doing in a day,” he said.
Mr Barilaro said he was awaiting advice from the Southern NSW Local Health District on the capacity of the three southern hospitals to increase their vaccination rates, with updates expected by Friday.
“I’ll be coming back with a schedule, including walk-in hubs,” he said.
In his daily briefing, the Deputy Premier singled out the Eurobodalla Shire for having achieved 39 per cent of the eligible population double-vaccinated and almost 74 per cent having received a single dose.
In the Wingecarribee, those figures are 37 per cent fully vaccinated and 64.5 per cent having received the first does of vaccination.