NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has copped backlash from regional leaders over fears of rising Covid numbers as travel reopened across NSW from midnight.
The NSW Government delayed intrastate travel until November 1 after NSW deputy premier Paul Toole cited low vaccination rates in certain areas.
Mr Toole said the decision was made to keep regional communities safe and opening with the current vaccination rates in some areas would put communities in “jeopardy”.
“We have a responsibility here to make sure we keep our regional community safe,” he said.
“It’s important that we don’t actually open up businesses, and then we start to see them have case numbers start to escalate.”
Last week, the centre of NSW’s Covid-19 outbreak appeared to move away from Sydney, with the majority of cases reported outside of the city.
The majority were detected in the Hunter New England region, but also saw rise in infections in the Snowy Mountains and Riverina area.
On Sunday, it emerged the mayors from the Hunter and mid-north coast requested a meeting with Mr Perrottet a fortnight ago to discuss concerns surrounding reopening.
Despite travel permitted any where within NSW from midnight tonight, and international travel set to resume for fully vaccinated NSW residents as well as vaccinated returning Australians flying into Sydney without quarantine, the ABC revealed Mr Perrottet “declined” the meeting.
“It is unfortunate the meeting was declined by the Premier,” Local Government NSW president Linda Scott told the publication.
“These local government leaders continue to have concerns about the relatively low vaccination rates in their communities and they are eager to work with the state government on a more nuanced strategy for reopening Sydney to these regions.”
Facing pressure, Mr Perrottet on Sunday used the opportunity to cite high vaccination rates in regional areas ahead of the reopening to Sydney.
He blamed an “administrative issue” in his office for the miscommunication and assured: “The request came through, I approved it, unfortunately that hasn’t come through but that’s been rectified.
“They wanted to discuss some of the vaccination issues they are having and I said yes. So I will meet with them and hear their concerns.”
Mr Perrottet assured regional NSW residents the vaccination rate has increased and said the delay in reopening will help the region to cope.
“The vaccination rate has substantially increased in many LGAs across regional New South Wales, in that two-week period,” Mr Perrottet said.
“In fact, it far exceeded where we believed we would be when we extended it out of the 1 November.
“There has been a substantial increase, not just across the board but if you look at the LGAs that have now had an 80 per cent double dose, that is an important point to make. The reason we made that decision was not because the vaccination rates in the bush were slow.
“It was just that they had well exceeded expectations in Sydney, so that the gap between where we expected to be across the board was much higher in Sydney, but a little lower in regional New South Wales. So we have given that breathing space to provide and instil confidence in the bush.
“What was very clear in regional New South Wales two weeks ago was that there were still concerns in relation to their vaccination rate [but] confidence [is] back up and we are ready to go.
“It is an exciting day to many people, not just people in Sydney visiting relatives in regional New South Wales but also for many families in the bush being able to come to Sydney.”
From tomorrow, with fully vaccinated international travellers returning to the country without quarantine, regional travel, and other restrictions easing – itâs more important than ever to continue our COVID-19 safe behaviours.
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) October 31, 2021
NSW has recorded 177 new local Covid-19 infections a day before state residents will be allowed to travel internationally.
NSW virus numbers have remained relatively low for the past few weeks, compared with the months of August and September when there were more than 28 days with over a 1000 daily community cases.
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