Barilaro confirms intent to release regional NSW from lockdowns

Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

After Thursday’s announcement of an additional week of Covid-19 lockdown for Regional NSW, the Deputy Premier John Barilaro continued to stress that he “[doesn’t] want to keep areas locked down that have no cases” beyond the current lockdown end date of August 28.

“It’s just not fair,” he said on Friday, pointing to mental health concerns and the long-term impact for regional businesses if the lockdown is extended.

Mr Barilaro said he was eager to see restrictions lifted as soon as possible and to return to the rules which were in place prior to the current 14-day lockdown. 

One approach which he said is being considered by the state’s crisis cabinet is to open up individual regions for intra-regional travel, so long as residents aren’t leaving their local areas.

“[We could] open up regions as long as you stay in those regions… that may be an approach we have in all NSW,” he said.

Mr Barilaro further clarified that lockdowns wouldn’t be reintroduced hastily. He said that they would not be locked down because of a simple sewage detection of the Covid-19 virus. Instead, he said the state would have to know that there was an active case in that community, with exposure sites and the possibility of community transmission before an area would be locked down again.

“We’re not that trigger happy and I wouldn’t accept that, because that gives you no certainty,” he said.

“You only put an area into lockdown if there is a confirmed case.”

The statements came as the Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that mask wearing is now mandatory for all NSW residents when they are outside, except during strenuous exercise, from Monday.

Mr Barilaro said that applies at all times, even when walking the dog, unless it’s genuinely strenuous exercise.

The state government has also eliminated the ability for Sydneysiders to visit regional NSW to inspect investment properties, but has left the door open for city residents who are genuinely relocating to the country to apply for a permit to travel to a residential inspection.

Mr Barilaro said state data showed that in the March quarter, “24,000 people moved out of Sydney to the regions and there was a lot less… movement back to the cities.”

He described it as good news for regional and rural property owners who are looking to sell and ‘have never had it so good’.