OPINION | Port Stephens is united in battle against COVID-19

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington

This past week has been a confronting demonstration of how simply and quickly local COVID-19 conditions can change.

Overnight, lives in Port Stephens were turned upside down, schools and businesses closed, and hundreds of people queued for testing.

Knowing how closely connected our community is, we understood the risks ahead, particularly for our vulnerable older residents. What happened next was impressive - residents did what was necessary to keep our community safe. Everyone followed health advice and thousands of people got tested. There are still hundreds of people self-isolating, and many businesses made the difficult decision to press pause.

And while most of us reduced our contact, hardworking health workers ramped up to form an impressive frontline. Our community is immensely grateful to everyone who stepped up.

Testament to that effort has been the welcome news that we've been able to stabilise local case numbers and avoid the dramatic daily increases witnessed in Sydney and Melbourne. But we cannot afford to relax. Until there's a vaccine or cure, risks remain high.

If conditions worsen again, we will be required to do exactly as we did this time: follow health advice, proceed with caution, and adjust day-to-day activities according to risk.

In the past week, many people made decisions that went beyond the requirements under the public health orders. They slowed down, stayed home and led smaller lives.

Impressively, many of our flagship tourism businesses made the difficult decision to temporarily close their doors in the interests of community safety. Their leadership and community spirit won't be forgotten.

Thanks to everyone's efforts so far we have stabilised local case numbers, for now, and avoided a mandatory lockdown. To continue on this path, we must always practice social distancing, good hygiene and if any COVID-19 symptoms appear, stay home and get tested.

Front of mind throughout all of this has been the local family unluckily caught by this global pandemic - I know we all wish them full and speedy recoveries.

What happened this past week has not only demonstrated our community's connectedness, but our strong commitment to one another - be proud, Port Stephens.