COVID-19 spike in western NSW towns

John Barilaro is confident the health system can cope with a spike in COVID cases in western NSW
John Barilaro is confident the health system can cope with a spike in COVID cases in western NSW

COVID-19 is continuing its spread throughout western NSW with the towns of Dubbo and Walgett recording 35 new cases, and an infection detected in Bourke.

There are now 99 active cases in the Western NSW Health District, with 91 of those in Dubbo.

Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders said the cases were "of concern", although testing numbers remained high, with almost a thousand done across the region on Sunday.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said his message for those in Dubbo was "please follow the health orders, the stay-home-orders and try and minimise mobilisation" even though regional communities were closely connected.

AMA NSW president Danielle McMullen said the health system was under strain in the state's west, particularly given the number of staff who had been stood down awaiting test results.

"The situation in Dubbo is really concerning... our system is really under strain," she told the Nine Network on Monday.

Despite the new cases Mr Barilaro said he was confident the health system would cope.

Western NSW Local Health District Chief Executive Scott McLachlan said it was concerning how many people who were infectious were still moving around the community.

"The vast majority of cases are Aboriginal and we've got nearly 40 per cent of the cases are kids between 10 and 19, so this is a really serious warning for parents and kids running around," he said.

Mr Saunders confirmed that one of the biggest employers in Dubbo, the meat works group Fletchers International, will close the abattoir for the week despite there being no cases.

There are 57 areas of concern across western NSW, with a scout hall in Dubbo and cafe in Orange among the venues of concern.

Mr Barilaro said rules would tighten from Saturday with anyone travelling to regional NSW requiring a permit and just one person allowed to travel to a second home and only for urgent maintenance, repairs or animal welfare.

He also moved to clear up confusion regarding travel for people living in the regions, explaining the five kilometre travel limit from home did not apply if there were no shops nearby.

"If you have to go to the neighbouring LGA to go grocery shopping, there is no limit if that is the only option that you have," Mr Barilaro said.

Fragments of the virus continue to be detected throughout regional NSW with more found in Bourke, Lennox Head, and Parkes.

In other regions, to 8pm on Sunday night there were 16 cases recorded in the Hunter New England area, although those cases were either close contacts of existing cases or in isolation.

There were also two new cases on the Central Coast, two in the Illawarra, while there were no cases on the north coast, Tamworth or Armidale areas, which Mr Barilaro described as "a good sign".

Australian Associated Press