PRESSURE is building on the NSW State Government to do more to clarify, tighten and to enforce COVID-19 restrictions to stem the flow of the Delta variant into the regions.
People are still moving between Sydney and the Hunter, visiting holiday homes in places like Tea Gardens and Port Stephens from Sydney, residents say.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said the rules were unclear, and currently unenforceable. "We're frustrated that the loopholes haven't been dealt with and the one of greatest concern in Port Stephens is the ability for people to travel between residences," she said.
"I spoke to somebody in Tea Gardens today and they believe there a lot of ... the term they use is 'blow ins', from out of town and they are concerned in a vulnerable community like that that somebody could bring the virus here.
"People do want to do the right thing and people are justified in thinking it's ok because, factually, that's what the health orders say. The only caveat to it, and that should be applied, is that holidaying isn't a reasonable excuse ... so arguably people coming up for R&R, that's against the public health orders."
The guidelines say moving between different residences is a "reasonable excuse" for leaving home, but that 'holidaying' is not.
When asked on Tuesday whether more could or would be done to ensure people weren't taking advantage of that loophole, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said "people know what is right and what is wrong", before asking Mr Hazzard to answer.
"It is difficult when it comes to people with different houses in different areas,'' Mr Hazzard said. "It is challenging. Having said that, I have said to our legal department to look at tightening up, as far as is possible.
"Clearly the rule now is that you shouldn't just travel from one house to the other just for the sake of moving to the other house... you should choose one house and stay there.
"You can't legislate against arrogance, stupidity and entitlement. People will still try to do it."
"You can't legislate against arrogance, stupidity and entitlement."- NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard
Ms Washington said she'd heard the minister's comments. "The problem is it is still unenforceable," she said. "This is exactly what happened to Don Harwin and when it went to court as I understand it was found to be unenforceable."
NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin resigned in April 2020 after being fined $1000 for allegedly breaching a public health order by leaving Sydney during lockdown to 'work from home' at his house in Pearl Beach on the Central Coast.
He was later reinstated as minister, however, and the case was dismissed, with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions reportedly pointing to the Public Health Orders in place which "did not restrict a person to a single place of residence."
At the time Mr Harwin said he had been working from his Pearl Beach residence for several weeks before the lockdown took effect and that he had taken advice from officials within his department about the Public Health Orders.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the rules and public health orders in place was one issue, but compliance was another.
"My public health advice is we need to further look at how we can stop people going into the regions," she said. "I am not in a position to understand the operational impacts of how you would do it and so that has been passed on to police and police have put in an increased regime of compliance."
The government says it has not ruled out any measures to help the community comply with COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
IN THE NEWS:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.