Member for Riverstone Kevin Conolly has expressed his dismay at the misguided strategy behind the new restrictions announced today for “LGAs of concern” in western and south-western Sydney.

“Restrictions alone do not break the chains of transmission, so simply ratcheting up the intensity of restrictions when the earlier rules have not stopped transmission is pointless.

“Testing, Tracing and Isolating (TTI) is what is effective at breaking the transmission chain of a virus. But there has been far less attention given to improving the state’s TTI capacity than to tightening restrictions.

“Interventions which are well targeted to breaking the chains of transmission are welcomed. Those which impose heavier burdens on people’s lives without making any difference to transmission should be discarded.

“It is absolutely clear that the curfew announced today will add to the heavy psychological burden being borne by people of the affected LGAs, but it is not clear that it will have any effect whatsoever on stopping the virus. The virus is not more active at night than during the day.

“Bluntly, the curfew is pointless.

“Nor does limiting exercise in the outdoors to one hour per day do anything at all to reduce the spread of the virus. If anything, people are less likely to spread the virus when outdoors. Curtailing this opportunity will bring worse mental health impacts.

“On the other hand it is some relief to see that at last rapid antigen testing (RAT) will be put to some use in NSW to fight Covid. This weapon has been left idle on the shelf for far too long in NSW.

“Timeliness in identifying positive cases is everything. Our contact tracers can only do the job if they are given the precious time required to identify and isolate contacts before they in turn become infectious.

“This is what really does break the chain of transmission.

“What is disappointing about the proposed use of RAT is that it will still not form part of NSW Health’s frontline response, but will be relegated to employer use in workplaces.

Mr Conolly believes surveillance testing using RAT should have been part of our strategy for the last two months. In his view it is not too late to adopt that approach.

“Using RAT for surveillance testing would have eased the obvious problem the state has with slow turnaround times for PCR testing.

“The slowness of the current testing regime is, in my view, a key reason why NSW has failed to get on top of this outbreak. Everything possible should be done to reduce the time taken to deliver test results.

“NSW boasted for months about having the ‘gold standard’ in contact tracing, yet this process too has been too slow. Opportunities for improvement have not been identified and adopted with the urgency that a “national emergency” should demand.

“Where additional resources can help speed up testing or tracing, they should be provided without hesitation or delay. No effort should be spared to make TTI work.

“We’ll never keep up with Delta if we refuse to use the fastest methods available.

“We need to supercharge our testing and tracing efforts. That should be the primary focus of our strategy to rescue NSW from this outbreak, not ever tighter restrictions,” said Mr Conolly.

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