OPINION | Moving forward with caution, compassion

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington

Who would have thought 2020 would have turned out like this?

Never in my wildest dreams did I predict a scenario where I would be pleading with tourists to not visit our beautiful region. Or cautioning people about spending time in the presence of others.

I thank everyone for doing what has been necessary to protect our community. We've done well - the statistics speak for themselves. We haven't had a new case of COVID-19 in Port Stephens for six weeks. Collectively, as a community, and acting with caution and common sense, we've saved lives.

But it's come at a price. Many people have lost income, lost their livelihoods, and many others face ongoing uncertainty.

Small business is so often the lifeblood of regional communities and it's effectively been switched off, so the impact has been deeply felt. But now is the time to start slowly, carefully, turning the switch back on. Although, with so many of our small businesses being tourist-based or dependent on tourism, it's going to be very difficult.

Some restrictions have already eased, allowing a number of doors to re-open. But travelling to regional areas for the purposes of a holiday remains prohibited, and we don't know how long that restriction will remain. Regardless of the restrictions in place, I urge everyone to proceed with caution.

With 24,000 of our residents over the age of 60, and almost 13,500 over the age of 70, our community has great capacity, wisdom and vitality. It also has a significant susceptibility to this awful virus which has swept across the globe. Our community's unique vulnerability warrants special care.

We have all watched with horror as the virus took hold at Newmarch House, an aged care facility in Sydney, which tragically took the lives of 18 elderly residents. This is not a fate I wish on anyone, nor is it a scenario we want to see play out in Port Stephens. And yet, despite the best efforts of the many quality aged care services in Port Stephens, it's not an impossibility.

So with the current easing of restrictions, we must continue as we started - with care, kindness and compassion. Everyone's path through the pandemic has been different and the road to recovery is going to be rocky. So if you need assistance, please contact me.

By continuing to work together and looking out for one another, I'm hopeful that our caring community will come out of these difficult days smiling.

  • Port Stephens MP Kate Washington