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Regional NSW told to expect tighter COVID-19 restrictions if communities aren’t vigilant

Deputy Premier John Barilaro has warned regional communities to “stay vigilant” or face tighter restrictions in an effort to keep the highly-infectious Delta strain out of rural NSW.

NSW today recorded 105 new locally acquired cases — the third-highest number of new infections since the Delta outbreak began last month.

With the COVID-19 outbreak in Greater Sydney yet show any signs of improving, Mr Barilaro said those in the regions should be alert to anyone illegally visiting from locked-down areas.

“We will have to put in place further restrictions if there are breaches,” he said.

“At this stage we [the regions] have a level of freedom that we don’t have in Sydney and we would like to keep that but that’s going to take an effort from both Sydney and an effort from the regions.”

The warning comes after three removalists from Sydney, who allegedly knew they all had COVID-19, travelled to Molong in the state’s Central West.

“To the communities of regional and rural NSW, my plea is to stay vigilant,” Mr Barilaro said

“We are still seeing a significant level of movement from Sydney … predominately around freight … this brings a level of risk.

“We’ve had a couple of near misses … let’s get on top of these issues and make sure it’s clear the message to Sydney is to not come to the regions.”

Mr Barilaro described the actions of the Sydney removalists as “careless, reckless and deliberate” and said they had the potential to “swamp” the entire health system in the Central West.

The three men, aged in their 20s, have been charged and face a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment.

Earlier today chief health officer Kerry Chant revealed an infected truck driver delivered pet food to a depot in Parkes and Blaney on July 14, 15 and 16.

Mr Barilaro said there was still too much movement between the city and the regions and restrictions might have to be tightened in regional areas if locals did not adhere to the rules around mask wearing and travel.

“Understand that the restrictions put in place in the regions are for protecting you … we’ve been lucky,” he said.

On Friday, a 33-year-old woman from the Port Stephens area was fined for travelling to the Sydney local government area (LGA) of Ryde to help a friend move house.

Police were called to a restaurant in Salamander Bay where the woman was working.

She had stayed in Sydney for one night before returning and was fined $1,000.

People from regional and rural areas must not enter Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour local government areas unless they have one of “three reasonable excuses”.

In line with the tightened restrictions, NSW Police today announced an even harder, highly-visible crackdown to target those flouting the health orders.

“Stop thinking about how you can game the system,” Police Minister David Elliott said

“Stop thinking and planning about how you can get away with breaking the rules, start thinking about how quickly we can get out of lockdown.”

Mr Elliott said the “dope of the day award” went to seven people in West Guilford who said they met to play soccer, but didn’t have a soccer ball with them.

They were among the 240 people in the past 24 hours who were slapped with infringement notices for breaching health orders.

Police yesterday charged a man after he allegedly became aggressive towards police and assaulted a female officer after being questioned about not wearing a mask while in a CBD Woolworths store. He was charged with not wear fitted face covering, intimidation, stealing, assault police and resist arrest.

Under the new orders, there is now a requirement for people to provide their name and address when requested by a police officer and always carry a face mask when outdoors.

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