Deniliquin Pastoral Times
Confusion and frustration have followed the NSW Government’s decision on Saturday to lockdown regional NSW.
‘‘Why are we in lockdown when there has not been a COVID-19 case in our region?’’ is a question commonly asked.
While there is strong support for efforts to bring the Sydney COVID-19 outbreak under control and stop it spreading further into the regions, there were also questions around whether putting more unnecessary economic pressure on the Murray border region was warranted.
And while the NSW Government was stating at the start of the weekend there would be no total regional lockdown, the PASTORAL TIMES is aware that local school teachers had already been told to prepare for home schooling.
This would indicate if the decision had not already been made, it was imminent.
The lockdown was announced with little more than an hour’s notice, coming in to effect at 5pm Saturday.
On Sunday, government efforts to justify the backlash included stopping the leak of COVID-19 from the Australian Capital Territory.
Local people took to social media to try and overcome their confusion, but with limited success.
Workers, farmers and those requiring medical treatment were trying to get their questions answered and allay fears.
Edward River Council Mayor Norm Brennan suggested loopholes which allowed people from COVID hotspots to travel — and therefore spread COVID-19 to western NSW — is one reason our communities are paying the price.
‘‘We have never had a single case in Edward River, yet we have been slammed by border closures, abided by restrictions, stopped visiting our family and friends and got out to get vaccinated,’’ he said.
‘‘Yet all that effort and sacrifice could come unstuck if we see a positive case travel from elsewhere to here.
‘‘It is a very real concern for us and we hope the authorities are doing all possible to fully enforce the lockdown — because it just doesn’t seem to be working.’’
Increased COVID-19 enforcement powers in Greater Sydney were launched on Saturday, with the introduction of the joint NSW Police and Australian Defence Force Operation Stay At Home.
New rules introduced Saturday and in place across all of NSW until 12.01am this Sunday state that everyone must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave.
They also cannot have visitors in their home from outside their household, including family and friends.
People still can have one visitor at one time to fulfil carers’ responsibilities or provide care or assistance, or for compassionate reasons, including where two people are in a relationship but do not live together.
It is a reasonable excuse to leave your home for work – but only if it is not practicable to work from home.
Anyone who leaves their home must carry a mask with them at all times. They must be worn when working outdoors, by all school staff, by all people in outdoor markets, outdoor shopping strips, and in outdoor queues waiting for products such as coffee and food.
All hospitality venues must be closed to the public, including pubs, restaurants and cafes, except for takeaway. Only selected retail businesses are allowed to open.
It’s another blow to the business community in particular, which is impacted by COVID-19 rules in both NSW and Victoria.
The cost to the economy is already placed at $1 billion in revenue and 10,000 in a report prepared last month by Murray Regional Tourism.
Deniliquin small business owner Carlee Rundell-Gordon said she’s been watching her income dwindle over several weeks, and must now temporarily close Kali Soo in Cressy St because of the lockdown.
‘‘I’ll be working on my online shop as a last ditch effort to earn some money,’’ she said,.
‘‘A business like mine (non essential) is first to cop the impact.
‘‘I’ve been holding breath for weeks regarding the downturn in business.
‘‘Being on the border, and having lockdown on both sides for past few months, has been tough. It’s not good.’’
While it’s disappointing Deniliquin and district is paying the price for Sydney’s inability to stop the spread further in to the state, Ms Rundell-Gordon said she’s seen evidence of why such tough measures are needed.
She reports encountering visitors to the region who have refused to wear masks, saying at least lockdown would be ‘‘a relief to have a break from that’’.
Ms Rundell-Gordon said she will need to assess whether she will be eligible for government assistance.
She said shopping local would be the key to helping the local economy recover.
‘‘We just need to keep supporting businesses how we can during this time.’’
Cr Brennan said with the Delta strain already spreading throughout NSW, the only thing we can do now is ‘‘follow the rules’’ to prevent further lockdowns from impacting local business and the region’s way of life.
He urged anyone eligible to book in for COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible.