Keeping COVID-19 at bay: what Port Stephens needs to do

Kate Washington

Kate Washington

Port Stephens residents are being urged to remain vigilant and follow all public health orders in order to keep at bay the latest coronavirus outbreak which is currently ravaging greater Sydney.

Community police, politicians, business and community leaders are urging the people of Port Stephens to do the right thing following reports of a health order breach at Salamander Bay on July 16.

Officers from Port Stephens-Hunter Police District were called to a restaurant on Town Centre Circuit where they were told a 33-year-old woman who is employed at the venue travelled to the Ryde LGA so she could help a friend move to a new house. "The woman told police she stayed in Sydney overnight before returning that day. She was issued a $1000 fine," the police spokesperson said.

State MP Kate Washington has been outspoken on the need to follow the health advice as "the health effects of this virus are severe and can be fatal".

"Unfortunately, the financial impacts have been devastating as well. The shockwaves from the Greater Sydney lockdown are being felt by our local small business owners, hospitality and tourism operators," Ms Washington said.

"It's important that we all do what we can to support our local businesses. Buying locally means that local businesses can keep employing local workers who rely on the income to feed their families.

"Whilst there is support available for workers who have lost shifts, businesses that have lost turnover, and accommodation providers who have cancelled bookings because of travel restrictions, we can all do our bit to help too."

Federal MP Meryl Swanson said that the latest outbreak had fatigued regional NSW and that people locally were trying to do the right thing, but had been let down by the government.

"The Commonwealth's sluggish vaccination program is taking its toll on our region and the state's economy," she said.

"I commend locals for doing the right thing and following public health orders, however, I understand the region's frustration at the lack of action on the vaccine rollout.

"The PM must help those Australians who've been doing it tough. This doesn't stop at Sydney, businesses across Port Stephens need support to keep locals in jobs while the tourism dollars are drying up."

AVAILABLE:: Dr Alex Richardson from Nelson Plaza Clinic says they now have the Pfizer vaccine available.

AVAILABLE:: Dr Alex Richardson from Nelson Plaza Clinic says they now have the Pfizer vaccine available.

Business Port Stephens president Leah Anderson said that thankfully she was yet to hear from any businesses having to close down due to the pandemic. "We are here to support businesses who are struggling during this time and want to assist in any way we can."

"We would like to thank Port Stephens Council for organising a Zoom meet with our members and members of Destination Port Stephens last Friday, where we got to hear of the support packages available to keep business open during these difficult times. Representatives of Service NSW and the Business Centre provided updates on what support is available.

"It's great to see this package rolled out that will see businesses keeping their doors open and staff keeping their jobs. We are especially pleased to hear of the proposed $1500 fortnightly grants for micro businesses with turnover of between $30,000 and $75,000 which can demonstrate a 30 per cent reduction in turnover where the business is the primary source of income. This will help our small businesses owners to get through these challenging times".

Destination Port Stephens CEO Eileen Gilliland said that the outbreak and lockdown in Sydney since late June has had a major impact on the visitor economy in Port Stephens.

"Occurring just prior to the school holidays, a peak time for our industry, saw occupancy levels at accommodation drop from around 80% to between 10-20 per cent. This has had a flow on affect to tours, attractions, restaurants and retail as well as to businesses that support the visitor economy," she said.

"It is unknown how long this will continue and whilst there is support that has been announced by the federal and state governments, it can't possibly make up for revenue lost over this time. Our local businesses need ongoing support to ensure we come out of the other side of the pandemic.

"Tourism contributes an estimated $1.5 million a day to the Port Stephens visitor economy which supports jobs for the local community. Every day that the lockdown continues has a major impact.

"Local businesses need your support right now and we encourage the local community to shop local, dine out or be a tourist in your own backyard. Just remember that we all need to adhere to the mandatory rules so don't forget your mask and phone and to check-in."

Meanwhile, Dr Alex Richardson from Nelson Plaza Clinic said that they had started Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination from July18, with 300 patients booked in.

"The clinic will be opening Sundays exclusively for vaccinations. We hope a Sunday clinic allows those working during the week to access the vaccine. We hope to offer more Pfizer vaccinations per week once our allocation increases.

"We encourage everyone to check their eligibility online (link on our website). Currently everyone over the age of 40, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 16 and over, all healthcare/aged care/disability workers, patient's with specific conditions and many others are eligible for a COVID 19 vaccine. Bookings can then be made online via our website.

"The brand of vaccine (Pfizer of AstraZeneca) patients are offered is determined by the government and has strict criteria. We do not have any power to deviate from these criteria. The overwhelming evidence is that the vaccines are safe and very effective a preventing severe COVID-19.

"I'd like to note the fantastic work our health services are doing. The guideline changes are relentless and often create enormous work for our admin and support staff."

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