North Coast Liberal MP demands NSW health Minister Brad Hazzard resign over Byron case
NSW Liberal MP Catherine Cusack has demanded the resignation of Health Minister Brad Hazzard amid reports the Byron and Tweed lockdowns were triggered by a visiting reality TV show crew member deemed an essential worker.
Ms Cusack, an upper house MP who lives at Lennox Heads, last night blasted Mr Hazzard on Twitter, saying she was “devastated” workers had been granted exemptions to travel to regions that are still catching up on vaccinations.
Her outburst came amid reports the snap Byron and Tweed lockdowns on Tuesday afternoon were the result of an infected TV crew member linked to I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here, who had been in the region over the weekend.
Both regions were also booted from the Qld border bubble.
“I am devastated to learn the lockdown of Byron and Tweed LGAs triggered by a so called “essential worker” closing businesses, schools and ruining cross border progress,” Ms Cusack wrote.
“100% OUTRAGEOUS! Brad Hazzard massive fail – RESIGN!”
The Covid-positive woman arrived in Ballina on Saturday morning on Virgin flight 1141 and spent time in the Ballina, Byron, and Tweed areas.
She reportedly returned a negative rapid antigen test in Sydney before arriving on the North Coast.
ITV, the producer of the reality survival show, confirmed the case in a statement, but said the crew member was “fully vaccinated and wearing full PPE while at work”.
Mr Hazzard announced at yesterday’s press conference that Byron and Tweed would be in lockdown for the next seven days, while Queensland later confirmed the northern border town had been cut out of the bubble.
This means nine of the 17 LGAs currently in the border zone are now restricted and people can only enter Queensland for limited essential purposes.
The community of Lismore was ejected from the border bubble last week after recording a single case.
Ms Cusack, who has been in the NSW upper house for 18 years, said her position had been for regional travel to be paused until communities can reach optimum vaccination rates.
“My request has been block region travel until we can catch up with vax supply, which has been appalling,” Ms Cusack said.
“I feel for Sydney. But the impacts here are very serious especially cross border, and a modicum of attention to our issues and problems would have prevented this. It is unnecessary FAILURE as if we don’t matter a twit. Just gutted by the risk / costs of allowing this to happen.”
NSW Health data shows 83 per cent of the state’s residents have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 54.2 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The Byron and Brunswick Heads communities are lagging both the state average and their neighbouring towns in terms of vaccination rates, with only 50 per cent to 59 per cent having had their first dose, and 30 per cent to 39 per cent fully vaccinated.
The Tweed area – including Banora Point, Casuarina, and Cabarita Beach – has a first dose rate of 70 per cent to 79 per cent, and 40 per cent to 49 per cent fully vaccinated. The Ballina and Lennox Head region is the same.
Ms Cusack bit back at claims these regions should be locked down due to an apparent ‘anti-vax’ mindset in the community.
“You obviously are so wrong and clueless about this region and its demographics,” she wrote in response to a tweet.
“Most want to get vaccinated and haven’t been able to – the supply to regions has been massively disrupted by Sydney much to our frustration.”
Ms Cusack was removed as a NSW Parliamentary Secretary in November after crossing the floor on a controversial land management bill in a show of support for koala habitats.
Last month she welcomed the announcement of a permit system that requires workers travelling more than 50km from Greater Sydney to apply for permission to enter regional communities, but only after taking a Covid test in the previous seven days.
Originally published as North Coast Liberal MP demands NSW health Minister Brad Hazzard resign over Byron case
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