Advice from NSW’s top health official, Dr Kerry Chant, was overlooked by the NSW government during the worst of the Delta outbreak, according to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald.
Emails sent between Dr Kerry Chant and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard during the outbreak in August have shown that Dr Chant recommended “consistent measures” to curb the spread of the virus should be implemented across greater metropolitan Sydney.
“Implement consistent measures across greater metropolitan Sydney with outdoor masks, consistent 5km rule and authorised workers only,” Dr Chant wrote in a list of recommendations in an email on August 14.
The NSW government instead imposed tougher restrictions during the lockdown extension in certain local government areas in west and south-west Sydney, leaving other areas of metropolitan Sydney with fewer restrictions.
The month prior, many community leaders in south-west Sydney criticised the government’s tougher restrictions in certain areas and not others. Fairfield councillor Dai Le wrote for Women’s Agenda at the time, saying it was causing “division” across parts of Sydney, and it had triggered “emotional and social upheaval” for residents in her local government area.
“The decision to build this invisible wall came as a shock to us, made worse by the fact that no additional resources were put in place to ensure that when this decision was announced it would be managed smoothly so that our city had the opportunity to do the right thing,” Dai Le wrote.
During the lockdown, former Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard repeatedly signaled they were following the health advice of Dr Chant.
The emails have been released under a parliamentary order pushed by NSW Labor MPs, with opposition leader Chris Minns saying the decisions taken by the NSW government created “two Sydneys”.
Dr Chant also recommended a “stage 4 restriction approach” similar to what was adopted in Victoria in its 2020 lockdown, in a July 13 email. And on July 29, she recommended a curfew should be considered “for the messaging effect as we need to signal the absolute urgency of the current situation with strong compliance presence”.
A curfew was introduced weeks later on August 23, only in the 12 local government areas of concern in west and south-west Sydney.
Labor MP Jihad Dib has said the community in south-west Sydney were always willing to follow the rules, but wanted “consistency and fairness”.