The NSW government should abandon the 50km buffer zone between Greater Sydney and the remainder of the state, which exempts travelling essential workers from mandatory regular COVID-19 testing, Business Hunter says.
The peak body is urging a "precautionary approach" in order to avoid the potential for the Lower Hunter to become a "weak point" in stopping the spread of the latest outbreak.
Under the current COVID-19 measures, expected to last until at least July 30, people living in the Greater Sydney lockdown zone - which includes the Central Coast - can travel outside that area for essential work.
Those workers must have had a negative COVID-19 test within the previous seven days if they travel more than 50km from the border of the lockdown zone.
Much of the Hunter is located less than 50km from the northern edge of the Central Coast.
There is concern the temporary halt to the construction industry in Greater Sydney this week will prompt more workers to travel outside the lockdown zone.
Business Hunter chief executive Bob Hawes said the government should implement a testing regime for workers that did not take into account a buffer zone and "consider restraining the footloose speculative contractors" unless they commit to being tested every three days.
"We want to, as reasonably as possible, keep the industry operating but need to be conscious of the risks," he said.
Mr Hawes said restrictions on the construction industry in Greater Sydney would make it attractive for contractors to look for work in the Hunter.
"Many of these workers will not be constrained by the COVID testing regime unless they travel outside the 50km zone," he said.
"The 50km zone stretches from the bottom of Lake Macquarie up to Medowie, across to Maitland, Cessnock and up towards Singleton - it's a significant area of activity and across many of the region's main population centres."
When asked during a press conference in Sydney on Monday why the government was continuing to let workers travel from the lockdown zone, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said those from the worst-affected hotspots were not allowed to do so.
"It's a proportionate risk issue that has been managed right through this and we will continue to manage it," he said.
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