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COVID risks creep in from Sydney

Wednesday, 14th July, 2021

By Cherie von Hrchner

A traveller from Sydney has told of how he eluded COVID security measures to arrive in Broken Hill unchecked by authorities.
The man, who spoke to the Barrier Truth on condition of anonymity, says he flew to Broken Hill from the virus-riddled capital on the weekend with about 12 other passengers on a Regional Express Airlines flight.
“I’d come from smack bang in the middle of a Sydney ‘hot zone’,” the man said.
“I got my boarding pass in Sydney, went through security, walked out of Broken Hill airport when I landed and nobody asked a single thing.”
The man, who is currently self-isolating, says he tried everything he could to alert authorities prior to the flight, starting with a call to the National Coronavirus Health Information Line.
“A kinda’ confused young woman told me to call Broken Hill Airport, and when I suggested it would be closed she told me to call the Barrier Police,” he said.
“So I called the police, but the officer who took the call suggested I call the National Coronavirus Health Line again.
“In the end, I gave up.
“I just figured there’d be someone to meet me at either Sydney or Broken Hill airport – some authority who’d get details about where I was planning to isolate, so they could check that I was doing the right thing.   
“But there was nobody at either end.
“There’s all this talk about hard lockdowns and increased security measures, but I slipped from a COVID hot zone to Broken Hill in just under four hours with no questions asked.”
The man immediately took a COVID test at the Crystal Street drive-through clinic and continued to his isolation venue. But he wonders if the other passengers on his flight bothered to be so careful.
“I have no idea who they were or where they are,” he says, “and neither do the authorities, I suspect.”   
Despite the harsh travel restriction imposed on Greater Sydney, Rex Airlines continues to operate flights from the capital to Broken Hill, the airline website warning that “passengers must ensure they have necessary permission/permits”. It is unclear, however, whether Rex staff have the authority to demand such permits at check-in (the airline did not immediately respond to a request for clarification).   
The Barrier Truth observed Monday’s flight arriving from Sydney at 9.15am, alighting passengers moving freely from the airport with no police or medical personnel there to meet them. Inspector Yvette Smith of the Barrier Local Area Command says Broken Hill police are “not tasked to inspect permits,” and a spokesperson for Far West Health said that they are “currently not performing COVID-19 checks at the Broken Hill airport”.
The relaxed security in Broken Hill seems at odds with the panic that has seized other parts of the nation as Sydney’s daily caseload rose above triple figures this week, prompting NSW’s Deputy Premier John Barilaro to tell Sky News “we’ve lost control” of the virus.
On Monday, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall closed the state to travellers from Greater Sydney, due to what he described as a “seriously deteriorating situation in NSW”, while New South Wales Premier unleashed police patrols into the streets of the capital, declaring: “This is not the time to take any risk whatsoever”.
Yesterday, the ABC reported that NSW’s COVID-19 outbreak had spread to the state’s regions after an “essential worker” carried the virus from Sydney to Goulburn.
“Until now, the growing NSW COVID-19 outbreak has been confined to the Greater Sydney and its surrounds,” the report stated.
“Authorities had warned of dangerous consequences if the virus were to leak into regional areas.”
It’s a situation that has already alarmed Broken Hill City Council, the arrival of a 100-strong Sydney-based film crew this week causing Mayor Darriea Turley to contact State Ministers seeking urgent reform to travel regulations.
”I’m not sure it’s in keeping with the controls the Government is looking to enforce around limiting movement out of Sydney,” she said.

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