Byron case identified ahead of schoolies

·2-min read

After a senior year plagued with interruptions and hardship as a result of the pandemic, a potential COVID-19 outbreak in schoolies hub Byron Bay threatens to ruin graduation celebrations.

NSW Health overnight sent a hostel in the northern NSW town into lockdown after a positive case and 84 close contacts were identified.

No guests will be able to leave the Aquarius Backpackers in Byron Bay for seven days, with police to guard the hostel around the clock to ensure compliance.

Some 80.9 per cent of residents in the Byron Bay local government area are fully vaccinated. Although high, the coverage rate lags the state average of 92 per cent.

But NSW Police Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe has brushed off concerns the situation could affect schoolies celebrations, saying none of the people locked down have so far been identified as schoolies.

"Between Health (NSW) and ourselves we're very comfortable with the planning we've put in place and the Aquarius matter is being managed by Health and we're supporting them," he told reporters.

NSW Health is providing food for the 84 guests at Aquarius Backpackers, and may relocate some of those isolating, he said.

"Obviously nobody really wants to be locked down but they're all in good spirits at present," he said.

Local state MP Tamara Smith echoed that message.

"If you're going to be in quarantine anywhere, I can't think of anywhere nicer, because it's got views of the beach and also a pool," the member for Ballina told ABC News.

"But it's still a shock and people are anxious."

Driving much of the anxiety is the impact an outbreak may have on the region's health services, and the hit businesses could take during a peak period that is supposed to help them bounce back from 18 months of pandemic heartache.

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