Premier's chilling warning for low-vaxx areas ahead of lockdown easing

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·News Reporter
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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned some cities and towns could be cut off from the rest of the state when lockdowns ease if their Covid vaccination rates don’t rise.

Byron Bay, Broken Head and Ewingsdale in northern NSW all have a first dosage vaccination rate of between 50 to 59 per cent with just 30-39 per cent having received both doses of vaccine.

The goal, of course, is for NSW to get to 70 per cent fully vaccinated. When this is reached, which is expected to be mid-October, fully vaccinated residents can enjoy outdoor activities, non-essential shopping and a drink at the pub.

Ms Berejiklian on Wednesday, as she touted the state reaching 80 per cent of people with one dose of vaccine, was asked if Byron Bay’s vaccination numbers could affect residents looking to enjoy freedoms.

Scenes in Byron Bay, NSW as residents are urged to be tested for Covid-19 after fragments of the virus were detected in the town’s sewage.
Byron Bay residents could be forced to stay in the area once lockdown lifts at 70 per cent vaccination if the town's own jab numbers don't rise enough. Source: AAP

She acknowledged some communities, like Byron Bay, has larger portions of the population who choose not to be vaccinated.

“That's their choice but they won't be able to participate in the activities vaccinated people will,” the premier said.

“It could be a situation where, if case numbers are too high when we open up the state, that if you live in a community or are a category of person who has high rates of virus, we might say to you for the next little while, do all those things that you're allowed to do, but within your local area.”

Ms Berejiklian added the two issues the health department will look at are vaccination rates and the prevalence of disease.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks during a press conference at Olympic Park in Sydney.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is pleased with the state's current vaccination rate. Source: AAP

She said it’s also easier to isolate regional communities than urban ones “because there's a distinction between townships”.

Some areas in northern NSW are among those with the lowest vaccination rates. Lismore and Richmond Valley LGAs, which neighbour Byron, both have less than 60 per cent with one dose and less than 35 per cent with two.

To put that into context, The Hills Shire, Mosman and Hornsby in Sydney have more than 80 per cent with one dose and more than half their population with two.

There have been ongoing concerns for regional communities throughout the pandemic with angst over supply and messaging. Just because certain areas do not have high vaccination rates does not necessarily mean the population is overrun with “anti-vaxxers”.

A map of NSW showing Covid vaccination rates with darker shades representing higher vaccinated areas.
This map illustrates Covid vaccination rates in NSW by LGA with darker shades representing higher vaccinated areas. Source: NSW Health

Some regional areas have exceeded inner Sydney LGAs in terms of vaccination rates.

The Sydney LGA, which includes affluent Woolloomooloo and inner west suburbs, has only 60 per cent of people with one vaccine dose and a little over 30 with two.

Shoalhaven, Bega Valley and Eurobodalla, all south of Sydney, have more than 70 per cent with one jab and 45 per cent with two.

Unvaccinated to be banned from new freedoms

Ms Berejiklian has made it clear the government would hold firm and ban the unvaccinated from restored freedoms at 70 per cent.

"At 70 per cent we've been clear and extremely black and white ... it will be a health order, and the law that if you're not vaccinated, you can't attend venues on the road map," she said.

"We are going through compliance issues now (but) there is an onus on you as an individual to be vaccinated and it will depend on the size of the business ... we know many small businesses are doing it tough, so we are going through that compliance regime now.

"If you're not vaccinated, you can't go to a restaurant, to a cafe."

with AAP

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