Covid-19 NSW: Long wait for NSW Health release letter for positive cases

Anton NilssonNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

NSW Health is so overwhelmed with coronavirus numbers that people who have tested positive have been forgotten in isolation, a Sydney mayor has told an inquiry.

People made to quarantine after testing positive are meant to receive a letter clearing them to re-enter the community after 14 days, but a “growing” number of people are left waiting for their letters for much longer than that.

“No one called me, no one checked up on me, nothing,” a 24-year-old Bankstown man who tested positive to Covid-19 in late August told NCA NewsWire.

“After 14 days I started calling them, I had to call like six different numbers. I felt like nobody wanted to take the responsibility of helping out.”

The man finally received his letter from the South Western Sydney Local Health District this week, clearing him for release from 11.59pm on Tuesday.

The Bankstown man said he had to make repeated phone calls before finally receiving this letter clearing him to reenter society.
Camera IconThe Bankstown man said he had to make repeated phone calls before finally receiving this letter clearing him to re-enter society. Credit: Supplied

With the curfew keeping people in hotspots indoors from 9pm to 5am still in place at that time, that means the man was prevented from stepping out his front door for 21 days.

“(It‘s) a growing problem and it’s really quite concerning,” Canterbury-Bankstown mayor Khal Asfour told a parliamentary hearing into the state government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak on Friday.

“There's really a backlog or lack of resources in getting these people to be able to rejoin society.”

Mr Asfour said the delays put additional strain on the mental health of people who lived in southwestern and western Sydney, areas that had borne the brunt of the current coronavirus outbreak and been languishing under extra-tough lockdown rules.

His council area alone has had more than 8000 local cases since the Delta variant began spreading in Sydney.

For the Bankstown man, the delay meant he missed an interview for a job he was hoping to get. It also meant mental anguish for his young daughter and his wife, who were isolating with him.

Camera IconBankstown has had thousands of local virus cases. NCA NewsWire / Flavio Brancaleone Credit: News Corp Australia

He also said he knew other people in his extended family who had experienced similar delays in being cleared after testing positive for Covid-19.

Leaving isolation before being issued a letter from NSW Health can get a Covid-positive person in deep trouble with the law.

“Not following these guidelines puts family, friends and the community at risk,” NSW Health says in a fact sheet for people in self-isolation.

“Not following these rules is also a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties. For individuals, the maximum penalty is $11,000, six months in prison, or both, with a further $5500 fine for each day of the offence.”

The parliamentary inquiry also heard from multicultural representatives on Friday who said the heavy policing in Sydney’s west and southwest had the effect of “criminalising” half the city.

Arab Council Australia chief executive Randa Kattan said residents of the hotspot council areas were punished for having working-class jobs and living closely with their extended families.

“The NSW response to Covid in western and southwestern Sydney has had the effect of criminalising nearly 50 per cent of our city,” she told a state parliamentary hearing on Friday.

“That’s what happens when you find yourself flanked by police as you leave the 7-Eleven store. That’s how it feels when you wake up to hear choppers hovering overhead.

“That’s what happens when the state shifts blame and treats an entire community as suspect and non-compliant.”

She said her organisation and other community advocates had asked NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to include local leaders in the Covid-19 response “before and not after the fact”.

“We are the experts on the ground, we know the communities, we know their values,” she said.

“And we know what and where the support is desperately needed.”

Ms Kattan also said local leaders should get a seat at the table when the plan for coming out of lockdown was devised.

Originally published as Covid-19 NSW: Long wait for NSW Health release letter for positive cases

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