Fairfield Covid testing chaos: essential workers wait up to six hours after new rules introduced

, Fairfield Covid testing chaos: essential workers wait up to six hours after new rules introduced, The Nzuchi Times Guardian

Thousands of people in Sydney’s south-west have struggled to get tested for Covid, with some waiting up to six hours, after the New South Wales government’s new rules for essential workers sparked massive queues.

People in the Fairfield local government area, which is the new epicentre of the outbreak, were waiting in their cars in queues stretching for kilometres to get tested at the local showground.

The rush came after the state government on Tuesday announced new restrictions for essential workers who must now get tested every three days if they work outside the area.

The mayor of Fairfield, Frank Carbone, says the new rules have created bedlam at testing sites in the area due to the sudden influx.

“We support more testing but adequate resources need to be put in place, [Tuesday] has been a terrible experience with a 6-hour wait,” he said in a Facebook post.

Carbone told the Nine Network on Wednesday that people who wanted to get tested but who could not afford to wait six hours in a queue had gone home.

“These are people that want to get tested, these are doctors and nurses, people that help our community, they work far and wide and these are essential workers.

“The mandated plan, where people need to get tested two times a week, once every three days, was very badly thought out.

“It’s unfortunate that the government has done this. I don’t think they understood the magnitude of it and I don’t think they understood the amount of essential workers we have in Fairfield.”

Anyone from Greater Sydney travelling to the regions for work must also be tested weekly, but these workers have until Saturday until the order is policed.

However, people who live outside of the area, but travel to and from Fairfield for work are not subject to increased testing requirements.

NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet apologised for the debacle.

“Can I just, on behalf of the government, apologise to everyone in Fairfield for this significant inconvenience,” Perrottet told 2GB radio.

“But also thank them, because it’s the sacrifice that they’re making … that keeps people safe.”

Unlike Victoria during its second wave lockdown, the NSW government has resisted calls to define what is an “essential worker”, urging businesses and individuals to instead use their “common sense”.

, Fairfield Covid testing chaos: essential workers wait up to six hours after new rules introduced, The Nzuchi Times Guardian

“To try and define essential work is really very challenging,” the health minister, Brad Hazzard, said on Tuesday. “An employer and their employee would know whether the worker is really essential.”

The testing chaos comes as the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, is set to announce an extension of Sydney’s lockdown, currently in its third week, after saying for days it was almost impossible it would lift on Friday as previously planned.

More financial support for workers and businesses was announced on Tuesday.

The state government expanded a business grants program and will cut or defer payroll taxes for most companies, while workers who have lost eight or more hours a week as a result of the lockdown will be able to apply for up to $600 per week in federal support.

NSW recorded 89 new local coronavirus cases on Tuesday, following 112 new local infections on Monday and 77 on Sunday.

The increase in workers’ payments kicks in once a lockdown exceeds 21 days.

Berejiklian said the support would give people a “breather” to follow the health advice.

The National Retail Association welcomed the support package as businesses “bleed $1bn a week in lost sales during lockdown”.

Tourism, transport, restaurant and hotel groups also welcomed the relief.

The union covering retail, fast food and warehouse workers, SDA NSW, said frontline retail workers should be given priority access to vaccines, like teachers have.

UnionsNSW said the relief didn’t “go fair enough” because the payments were too small and there was no paid pandemic or vaccine leave.

The government has also extended support to allow rough sleepers access temporary accommodation and a moratorium on evictions for commercial and residential tenants.

Most of Tuesday’s new cases were in the city’s south-west, while 20 were in the south-east or inner city.

Two people have died – a man in his 70s and a woman in her 90s – talking the NSW tally to 57 and the national death toll to 912 since the pandemic began began last year.

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