NSW government 'ignored' Covid health advice, emails reveal

·2-min read

Internal emails have revealed the NSW government went against health advice at the peak of “Australia’s worst outbreak”.

Correspondence from August, which has been released under a parliamentary order, shows health officials recommended “consistent measures” be immediately implemented across all of Sydney to “mitigate the risk” of escalating Delta cases.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (right) and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant arrive to address media during a press conference in Sydney, Thursday, September 2, 2021. Source: AAP
Health advice released under a parliamentary order has revealed the NSW Government ignored a key recommendation at the peak of the state's Covid crisis. Source: AAP

“Implement consistent measures across greater metropolitan Sydney with outdoor masks, consistent 5km rule and authorised workers only,” Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant wrote to Health Minister Brad Hazzard on August 14.

The August email chain warned it was the “worst outbreak in Australia during the pandemic” and there was a “significant risk of the health system being rapidly overwhelmed”.

Despite the dire prediction and clear advice, harsh lockdown measures were only imposed on 12 local government areas in Sydney’s west and southwest, where there was a “particular concern” about rising infections.

The move infuriated community leaders at the time, who accused the government of dividing Sydney.

Former premier Gladys Berejiklian repeatedly stated at her daily Covid briefings that all decisions were based on “health advice”.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant at a press conference to provide a COVID-19 update in Sydney. Friday, July 23, 2021. NSW recorded 136 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night. (AAP Image/POOL/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Gladys Berejiklian only imposed harsh lockdown restrictions in Sydney’s west and southwest despite Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant advising consistent measures be applied across all of Sydney. Source: AAP

NSW government defends Covid handling

In a statement to The Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesperson for the government defended the decisions taken to date, which “have helped keep the community safe, maintain public health, ensure our hospital system continues to operate effectively, keep businesses in business and people in jobs.”

Opposition slams Sydney split

NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns, who made countless calls for the health advice to be made public, said western Sydney had been treated unfairly.

“NSW residents put their trust in this Liberal National Government to follow the health advice during a time of crisis. These documents reveal the government was not following health advice when they needed it most,” he said.

NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns speaks to media at the Hindu Benevolent Fund at Wentworthville Community Centre in Sydney, Sunday, September 26, 2021. Source: AAP
NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns said it was "shocking" that the government didn't follow health advice during a time of crisis. Source: AAP

“These revelations show they ignored health advice and left Sydney’s west and southwest in tougher restrictions when it is clear consistency should have been applied across the whole of greater Sydney.

"The Government with Dominic Perrottet front and centre split Sydney in two, when there should not have been a divide."

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