'Shocking day' in western NSW outbreak

·3-min read

Protests, a lack of compliance with public health orders and low testing numbers are frustrating authorities in western NSW, as the region reported a record high 54 COVID-19 cases.

There are 32 new cases in Dubbo, where the death of an Indigenous man was announced on Monday, along with eight in Bourke, five each in Bathurst and Wellington, and one each in Brewarrina, Mudgee, Narromine and Parkes.

In the far west, there are four more infections in Wilcannia where about 10 per cent of the population of 750 has caught the virus.

"I've got to say, it's another shocking day for Western NSW," Western Local Health District chief executive Scott McLachlan told reporters on Tuesday.

"We're seeing way too much spread across our communities, and we saw yesterday the tragic events that happen when this gets out of control."

Helping drive the spread is a failure by too many community members to adhere to public health orders.

"We're still seeing a significant number of people in their community with symptoms, going out to shops, going out to other venues, and not getting tested," Mr McLachlan said.

"That's the perfect spreader event."

At the same time, too few people are being swabbed for the virus, with only 4400 people tested across the region in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday.

"That's still less than half of what we want to see on a daily basis," he said.

"Please, I urge everyone, don't stuff around if you've got symptoms."

More than 100 infringement notices were handed out across the region on Monday, with bigger cities and towns like Dubbo proving to be more of a challenge for police.

"Our small towns seem to be more concerned, seem to be taking more notice, and from what we've seen are doing a real good job of looking after each other," NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said.

Adding to the frustration of police is a number of small protests on Tuesday.

"(There have been) small protests right across the region today from Inverell right through to Bathurst," Mr McKechnie said.

By gathering in groups, refusing to wear masks and forcing police to interact with them, the protesters were putting the entire community at risk, he said.

"(It's) mindless behaviour by people who are not going to achieve anything... It's just appalling."

Almost 80 protests were broken up by police across NSW on Tuesday, with more than 150 people arrested and 573 fines dished out.

Among those arrested were 12 people from the state's west, where about 90 of the fines were also handed out.

It comes as concern grows for the state's Indigenous population, with reports it is almost impossible for some in remote towns to isolate because of overcrowding in houses.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard acknowledged managing outbreaks in towns like Wilcannia had been difficult, but urgent efforts were underway to provide accommodation to quarantine COVID-positive patients in remote communities.

"It's very challenging and it certainly would have been preferable if the Indigenous community, the Aboriginal people across NSW, had been vaccinated earlier," he said.

The failure of the federal government to do so was "obviously disappointing", he said.

Of the 1164 new locally acquired cases reported across the state, 45 are from Nepean Blue Mountains, five from Illawarra Shoalhaven, four from Central Coast and two from the Hunter New England district.

There has also been one new case linked to the Bathurst jail, bringing the total number of cases there to seven - all staff members.

Testing is underway to identify and isolate contacts and provide immunisation to staff and inmates.

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