Several councils have thrown their support behind NSW Labor’s calls for the government to consider easing COVID-19 restrictions in rural and regional NSW.
Rural and regional areas that have not recorded a local positive COVID-19 case in months have still been subject to the same restrictions placed on metropolitan areas where the virus had been more consistently present.
Shadow Minister for Health, Ryan Park, said the “one size fits all” approach needed to be reviewed by the government.
“It has been months since locally acquired cases were reported in some parts of the state,” Mr Park said.
“In these areas, we should be looking at easing the square metre rule and booking caps in cafés, restaurants and pubs as well as caps on functions and gatherings.
“How come 40,000 people can go to a stadium in Sydney but residents in regional NSW can’t stand up at their local pub? If we can do it safely at the footy, why not Forster or Forbes?”
Shadow Minister for Local Government, Greg Warren, said it didn’t make sense for pubs, club and restaurants in Cooma, Cessnock or Coraki to be subject to the same restrictions as those in Castle Hill, Carlingford or Clovelly.
“Applying a bit of common sense regarding the easing of restrictions would make an enormous difference to rural and regional areas throughout NSW,” he said.
“Placing restrictions on communities that have remained largely isolated from the virus seems counterproductive and unnecessary.”
NSW Labor’s calls have received support from a number of rural and regional councils including Cessnock and the Riverina Joint Organisation.
Chairman of the Riverina Joint Organisation, Rick Firman, believed the level of restrictions should be rolled back given the absence of the virus in the local community.
“This is something all of us across the Riverina region as mayors, councillors and staff have been calling for, for some time now,” Cr Firman said.
“There has been very few if any cases out here and we need to get our economy and tourism industry back on track, so we warmly and fully support this campaign by NSW Labor.”
Cessnock City Council Mayor Bob Pynsent echoed those thoughts.
“We are in a strong position to welcome visitors back to the Cessnock Local Government Area and the easing of restrictions will see a significant increase in tourism, which is so needed for our local economy,” Cr Pynsent said.
“Our businesses have gone through enough with the bushfires and now COVID-19.”