The NSW government ignored recommendations from Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant for a “consistent” lockdown across greater Sydney during the peak of the city’s outbreak.
In emails released under parliamentary orders, Dr Chant tells Health Minister Brad Hazzard and other health bureaucrats the harsher lockdown measures that were ultimately only imposed on western Sydney, should be applied to the whole city.
“Implement consistent measures across greater metropolitan Sydney with outdoor masks, consistent 5 [kilometre] rule, and authorised workers only,” Dr Chant says in the email dated August 14.
These measures were only put in place for select western Sydney local government areas fuelling criticism the poorer, more working-class parts of the Emerald City were being treated differently. At the time Hazzard and then-premier Gladys Berejiklian said they were acting on the health advice being put to them.
Dr Chant also told Hazzard and other officials to “intensify” actions in western Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the state’s rural and remote Indigenous communities.
On the latter, the state and federal governments were forced to bring in temporary housing and other support measures a month later to the remote town of Wilcannia, which has a majority Aboriginal population, after an outbreak of COVID-19 there.
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns says Dr Chant’s emails show the government was not acting on the health advice “when they needed it most”.
“These revelations show they ignored health advice and left Sydney’s west and south-west in tougher restrictions when it is clear consistency should have been applied across the whole of greater Sydney,” Minns says.
He says businesses were forced to shut and schools to close because of the amped up restrictions.
“The government,t with [then-treasurer] Dominic Perrottet front and centre, split Sydney in two when there should not have been a divide,” Minns says.