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February 27, 2021

Avoid non-essential travel, social gatherings: Health Dept

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The first Pelican flight direct from Canberra arriving at Ballina airport on July 3, 2020 following COVID-19 shutdowns . Photo Simon Haslam.

Paul Bibby

The recent case of COVID-19 detected at Ballina-Byron Airport appears to have involved a young woman wearing a face mask, raising hopes that the virus may not have spread into the community.

Last week, a 20-year-old Northern Rivers resident tested positive to the virus, when she returned home on the last Melbourne to Ballina flight on July 12. The case was detected during a regulation temperature check of all arriving passengers at Ballina-Byron Airport.

The state’s chief medical officer, Kerry Chant, said the woman had been wearing a surgical mask when she exited the plane.

‘The person was wearing a surgical mask and was self-isolating,’ Dr Chant said.

‘We’re doing contact tracing in relation to that Jetstar flight, JQ466.

‘The individual was screened on arriving in Ballina airport and as I said, since arriving, they were in the 14-day self-isolation.’

It has also emerged that the flight in question was only about 20 per cent full. The case was the first on the North Coast in 79 days, and brings the total number of cases in the region since the start of the pandemic to 56.

At the time of writing, no new cases had been recorded since July 12. While this provides hope that the case may have been successfully isolated, there remain concerns that the spread within Sydney could extend to the Northern Rivers.

The number of cases there has increased significantly over the past week, including a number of cases involving community transmission.

‘It wouldn’t take much for us to be in Melbourne’s situation, and we need everyone’s assistance,’ NSW Health deputy chief health officer Jeremy McAnulty said.

‘Everyone has got a role to play. Don’t be complacent’.

NSW Health said transmission in hotels and restaurants, gyms and social gatherings was of ‘particular concern’, and urged people to avoid non-essential travel and social gatherings.

Meanwhile, as of midnight on Tuesday, NSW had introduced a strict border zone with Victoria.

This involves tighter restrictions on border permits for residents of NSW border towns.

‘Essentially, unless you’re travelling across the border in the border zone for education, health or employment, you shouldn’t be going’, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

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