PAUL Toole had been called to COVID crisis meetings before but this time was different. This time the threat was in his own backyard.
The Bathurst MP joined a phone hook-up with NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant, deputy premier John Barilaro, Health Minister Brad Hazzard, Orange MP Phil Donato and Bathurst-based MLC Sam Farraway about 5.30pm on Tuesday to discuss growing concerns over a potential COVID-19 outbreak across the Central West.
Mr Toole had been briefed earlier in the day about a worker at the Nestle pet food factory in Blayney being infected with the highly-infectious Delta variant of the virus after coming into contact with a truck driver who was COVID-positive when he visited the plant.
Health officials had told Mr Toole that the Blayney worker lived in the Cabonne local government area but had also visited a number of locations in Orange on Saturday while potentially, but unknowingly, infectious.
ALSO MAKING NEWS:
It was clear a lockdown would be ordered in the Orange LGA but the crisis meeting decided to extend those orders to both Cabonne and Blayney LGAs due to the number of people from those areas that travel into Orange each day for work and shopping.
Under the lockdown orders, residents in the three LGAs can only home to go shopping for essential goods and services; to go to work if they cannot work at home; for education, if it cannot be done at home; to exercise within 10km of their home; or for medical or caring reasons, including obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination.
Bathurst residents who have been in Orange, Blayney or Cabonne on or after Saturday must follow the same restrictions.
The current orders are in place until 12.01am on Wednesday, July 28.
"I have been in these crisis meetings before but they have impacted on other parts of the state. This time we were talking about my area," Mr Toole said.
"There is no handbook on how to do this and these things move very fast.
"At times there are robust discussions we are not everyone is in agreement but this is primarily about accepting the advice from NSW Health to keep our communities safe.
"The three local government areas are the first regional communities to have a lockdown so the strong message is that where we see a case that may have been out and about in the community there will be a short, sharp lockdown period that we hope will be just the seven days.
"There are three areas in lockdown but those of us in neighbouring areas like Bathurst, Cowra and Dubbo also need to be on high alert. We need to limit our mobility, follow the health orders and always assume the person next to us is carrying the variant."
Mr Toole said those present at Tuesday's crisis meeting were conscious of the impact a lockdown would have on the communities, particularly local businesses, but all supported Dr Chant's advice that a lockdown was the surest way to combat a potential outbreak.
... this is primarily about accepting the advice from NSW Health to keep our communities safe.Bathurst MP Paul Toole
"I think everyone in the meeting was positive about the discussions and understood that this is a matter of safety, about saving lives," he said.
"We have seen states like Victoria and Queensland have had regular lockdowns but in NSW we have probably been fortunate that we have only had smaller lockdowns and in limited areas because that has allowed us to keep the economy open.
"But when it comes close to home like this it is certainly tough because we know how it will impact on businesses, on individuals and on families but these tough decisions are about trying to protect people, to keep people safe."
Mr Toole said it had been a "full on" period for all MPs as the state raced to contain a number of COVID outbreaks, fist across metropolitan Sydney and now into regional NSW.
He said health and political leaders had become accustomed to making tough decisions but they were always aware that circumstances could change very quickly.
"The message is that if you are feeling unwell, even if it's just a sniffle or a sore throat, go out and get tested," he said. "None of us can do this alone, we must all do it together."
BATHURST mayor Ian North urged residents to be remain vigilant in coming days to help guard against a COVID outbreak in Bathurst.
He said council was continuing to monitor the restrictions in place across the Central West and the impact on council's facilities and operations.
"My priority to is to keep our community safe during these uncertain times and I would like to remind everyone to please follow the COVID-safe measures currently in place," Cr North said.
"Residents are reminded to practise good hygiene, QR code in and out of venues, wear face masks and social distance when out and about.
"If you feel unwell, get tested and stay at home until you get the results particularly for residents who have been to the impacted areas over the last 14 days."
BUSINESS NSW western regional manager Vicki Seccombe has also expressed her concerns about the impact a lockdown will have on local businesses that had already suffered through the pandemic.
"There's no hiding that this will be a huge blow for business, big and small, right across the Central West," Ms Seccombe said.
"The impact to our business community has already been strongly felt through the recent restrictions and Greater Sydney lockdowns, so this is going to have a devastating impact to our businesses.
"We have been surveying our members during these current restrictions and initial results suggested business revenue in the Central West was already down by 43 per cent across a number of sectors, so this will surely spread to more businesses.
"But businesses understand how important it is that we contain this local outbreak and they will be working hard to ensure they comply with the rules.
"There is going to be additional pressure placed on business owners over the next seven days as they navigate these orders, so we encourage both employers and employees to work together."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
What do you think?
- Why not write us a letter to the editor ...