NSW Government’s inaction risks COVID-19 outbreak on New Year’s Eve

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Media release from Darcy Byrne
Mayor of the Inner West

The NSW Government’s refusal to put forward a COVID-safe plan for New Year’s Eve risks a major COVID-19 outbreak in Balmain and Birchgrove on December 31, Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne has warned.

The NSW Government’s refusal to put forward a COVID-safe plan for New Year’s Eve risks a major COVID-19 outbreak in Balmain and Birchgrove on December 31, Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne has warned.

The Government’s announcement that access to the CBD and North Sydney will be strictly limited, while access to vantage points in Balmain and Birchgrove will be completely unrestricted, led Council to write urgently to the Premier and Chief Health Officer on November 25 seeking clarification on how the plan will be safely implemented.

No response has been received from the Government, leading Council to resolve to close all foreshore parks and warn the community about the serious risk of COVID-19 transmission if large crowds attend the parks.

“I wrote urgently to the Premier following the Government’s New Year’s Eve announcement, calling for to extension of the sensible the crowd control measures being used in the CBD and North Sydney into the Inner West,” Mayor Byrne said.

“I fully support the strict measures the Government has put in place for the CBD and North Sydney, but they seem to have forgotten that this virus doesn’t stop at Council borders. Having 30,000 or 40,000 people crowd into our small, harbourside parks with no limit on numbers and no contact tracing capacity is a recipe for disaster.

“Every year tens of thousands of Sydneysiders descend on Balmain and Birchgrove for the fireworks display. The Government has now incentivised everyone in Sydney who wants to see the fireworks to flood into our local parks, with no restrictions or directions, creating a large-scale public health risk.

“Unfortunately, the Premier is yet to even acknowledge the receipt of Council’s urgent request for a COVID-safe plan and has provided no explanation of how the Government will ensure public safety and adherence to public health orders at our public parks on New Year’s Eve.

“In September, I publicly called for the New Year’s Eve fireworks display to proceed as I think people need something to look forward to after a very hard year. I offered the Government full cooperation in ensuring the fireworks could proceed, my only precondition has always been that there must be a COVID-safe plan for management of crowds, endorsed by the Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant.

“Instead of prioritising public health, the Government seems to have put their heads in the sand. Consequently, I am now sounding an alarm - complacency could result in the first day of 2021 being marked by an outbreak of the virus.

“Pubs, restaurants, sporting events and workplaces all require detailed COVID-safe plans to open, so why does the Government think tens of thousands of revellers pouring into crowded harbourside parks can be managed without a plan?

“As a result of the Government’s refusal to take responsibility, or even discuss how to manage public health risks, Council has had to take the decision to declare our foreshore parks closed.

“The local police have been provided with no additional resources by the Government to manage the crowd and, like Council, are concerned about the obvious health and safety risks created by this laissez faire approach.

“In the context of the pandemic, these risks require urgent attention and immediate collaboration if they are to be managed safely. The NSW Government must take responsibility for this,” said Mayor Byrne.

Please find attached a copy of Council’s November 25 correspondence to the Premier, Health Minister, Police Minister and Chief Health Officer (PDF 188.5KB).

Media contact: Darcy Byrne – 0404528277


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Page last updated: 07 Dec 2021