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Byron Shire
February 6, 2023

On your own with the virus, says government

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The State Government has left locals to ‘fend for ourselves’ by refusing to reinstate COVID-19 restrictions, despite an extended spike in cases, local MP Tamara Smith says.

As case numbers in Byron continue to climb at a rate significantly above the NSW average, Ms Smith said the wider community had gone from being ‘heavily surveyed with lots of information, to almost nothing’.

‘We are all very nervous about the spike in cases in our area as, let’s face it – who wants COVID-19 for Christmas?’ Ms Smith said.

‘It’s a shock, especially at a time when masks are off, but numbers are on the rise’.

‘I can see that people are anxious about going to restaurants and clubs and pubs, because everyone is visiting family and friends over the summer.’

In the 24-hours to 8pm on Monday, 26 new cases had been confirmed across the Northern NSW Local Health District (LHD).

Seventeen of these cases were in the Byron Shire, far above any other local government area in the region.

Despite the rapidly climbing case numbers, just five people are currently in hospital as a result of the virus.

This relatively low number is a reflection of the high levels of vaccination in the region, according to the Chief Executive Northern NSW Local Health District, Wayne Jones.

Mr Jones said that more than 90 per cent of Northern Rivers residents aged 15 and over were fully vaccinated.

‘We had been expecting to see a rise in cases over summer, in line with eased restrictions and more mobility across communities, and to see our vaccination rates also now at these high levels is extremely promising,’ Mr Jones said.  

The Byron Shire continues to lag slightly behind, with 84.4 per cent of people having been double vaccinated.

Newly elected Mayor, Michael Lyon, said in a press release on Tuesday that, ‘After today’s discussions [with local health authorities], Council will be formally writing to NSW Health asking for information and clarification on the issues discussed’.

‘At the moment, queues for testing are very long, with many people testing because they are close contacts or have symptoms of COVID-19, while others are getting tests prior to going away for Christmas’.

Meanwhile, newly elected Byron Shire councillor, Mark Swivel, called on the State Government to immediately restore public health orders requiring masks to be worn indoors, QR code check-ins and restricting public gatherings and events.

In a letter to State and local political leaders, he also called on NSW Health to ‘commit key public health resources to the Byron Shire’.

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