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How one sick prisoner's journey home shut down eight bush towns

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Tougher compliance measures are expected to be announced in NSW after eight local government areas in the state’s west joined the lockdown list as COVID-19 continues to spread into the regions.

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A one-week snap lockdown now applies to Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Gilgandra, Narromine, Walgett and Warren LGAs, while authorities scramble to ascertain all exposure sites.

The latest lockdown was prompted after a man was diagnosed with COVID after being released from Bathurst jail on Monday and travelled 500km west to Walgett, visiting Dubbo and Bathurst en route.

NSW has reported 345 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and at least 91 of those people were circulating in the community for all or part of their infectious period.

Two Sydney men in their 90s have also died, including one resident of Wyoming Aged Care in Summer Hill. One of the men had received two vaccination doses and the other one dose.

Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are in lockdown until at least August as health authorities battle to contain an outbreak of the virulent Delta strain.

Bathurst jail is the first in NSW to record a COVID-19 positive case this year.

Walgett Shire mayor Ian Woodcock told AAP authorities were scrambling to ascertain all of the exposure spots after the person visited Dubbo and Bathurst.

He is believed to have been infectious since Thursday and returned the positive result after testing on Saturday.

“The police are talking to him now to find out the route he took from where he was to get home” Woodcock told AAP.

“I am frustrated a little bit but what can you do these things happen.”

It comes after a 52-year-old Sydney man was charged with seven offences in his hospital bed after travelling to Byron Bay, sparking a lockdown in that region.

There are reports the NSW crisis cabinet on Wednesday night adopted tough new measures to deal with people defying public health orders and taking advantage of loopholes to travel out of Sydney.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant have all blamed a lack of compliance for the alarming spread of the virus out of Greater Sydney and into the regions.

Police Commissioner Mick Fuller will reportedly take control of enforcement and it’s expected that permits will be required to prevent people leaving their local area.

On Wednesday a 52-year-old Sydney man was charged at Lismore Hospital with breaching public health orders after travelling to Byron Bay on the north coast while COVID positive and sending the region into a snap lockdown on Monday.

Crisis cabinet reportedly decided an ­additional 500 defence force troops will be brought in to enforce compliance and help with contact tracing and more police will patrol COVID hotspots.

The newly locked-down regional areas join Dubbo, Tamworth, the Northern Rivers, Armidale, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Singleton, Dungog, and Muswellbrook.

The Hunter region lockdown that’s due to expire at midnight is expected to be extended as cases in the area continue to rise.

Panic buying followed Dubbo town’s restrictions, while a case was recorded at Dubbo West Public School.

NSW reported 344 new locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.

On the second worst day of the eight-week outbreak, at least 101 of the new cases were circulating in the community for all or part of their infectious period.

Berejiklian on Wednesday reminded everyone that eligible people needed to get jabbed to reach the vaccination target, and freedom.

“Two doses of 70 per cent vaccination [is the target] and NSW, if we had the current pace, we will hit that around the end of October,” the premier said on Wednesday.

But life won’t be “back to normal” until 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated towards the end of November, the premier said, referencing the Doherty Institute modelling produced for the national cabinet.

 

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