People in the central-western NSW town of Orange and its surrounds have begun a seven-day lockdown after a COVID-19 positive delivery driver from Sydney visited the area and infected another person.
The lockdown in the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne local government areas announced on Tuesday marks the first time a stay-at-home order has been imposed in regional NSW.
Orange Mayor Reg Kidd said the sudden decision to lockdown was made after NSW Health contacted the three town mayors.
“It was not an easy decision … but you have to think of the bigger picture … this is the best way that we have got to try and nip things in the bud,” he told ABC TV on Wednesday.
Orange MP Phil Donato said the virus spread last week when a driver from Sydney’s southwest – the epicentre of the outbreak – made a delivery to the Blayney pet food factory and passed on the virulent Delta strain of the virus to a worker.
The infected man then visited a numerous shops where many others also attended before testing positive and going into isolation.
“Potential exposure contacts were too significant. The concerns were that if we didn’t get on top of this quickly, it had the potential to spread,” Mr Donato told reporters.
“It gives us no joy to come out here and tell the community that there is a lockdown.”
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the response was tough but appropriate.
“If we have to do more we will do more,” he said.
Mr Barilaro also pointed to the national vaccine rollout, saying the federal government “has let us down’, with demand outstripping supply.
“It is a real issue for the federal government. They promised more.”
Meanwhile, Business NSW wants the government to end a two-week construction industry shutdown in Greater Sydney a week early “in a safe but reduced way”.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian says building sites could “definitely” reopen on July 31, a day after the current lockdown is supposed to end.
But Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter is pushing for tradies to get back to work on Monday to save jobs and livelihoods.
The construction shutdown is costing the NSW economy up to $1 billion a week, on top of the $1 billion a week the broader lockdown is costing.
Residents in Orange, Blayney and Cabonne can only leave to shopping for essential items, medical care or compassionate needs, exercise in groups of no more than two and for work or tertiary studies that can’t be done from home.
Schools remain open, but with restrictions including mandatory face masks for all teachers.
Masks must also be worn indoors and outdoors where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Meanwhile, former boxer Anthony Mundine has reportedly been fined $1000 for a second time for allegedly flouting public health orders.
NSW police say a 46-year-old man entered a Kingsgrove store in Sydney’s southwest on Tuesday without wearing a face mask.
He was asked to comply but refused, saying he was exempt and also declined to scan the QR code.
Earlier this month, Mundine was fined after flying to Ballina on the north coast during the Sydney lockdown.
NSW notched 78 new local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday and at least 29 of those people were in the community during their infectious period.
But the three-day average for new cases has dropped to 85, the government said, leading Ms Berejiklian to declare: “We’ve stabilised the virus.”
Five people have died since the Sydney outbreak began in mid-June.
A full list of NSW exposure sites can be found at health.nsw.gov.au