Councillor Steve Christou, the Mayor of Cumberland in Sydney’s West, has said the easing of lockdown rules for eastern Sydney suburbs was not fair to people living in his local government area (LGA) in the city’s west where minor changes have been made.
“It is difficult here in western Sydney where there are 12 LGAs that have been in lockdown for three months with a curfew from 9pm to 5am,” Cr Christou told Neos Kosmos. “These are the poorest communities and people are being restricted from going to work to support their families and cover their expenses.”
“Over the weekend we saw thousands of people on eastern suburb beaches, wearing no masks and ignoring social distancing regulations and there were no police officers to enforce them.
“Here (in the western suburbs) you have extra police, mounted police and police helicopters with loudspeakers telling people to go back inside if they are thought to be breaking rules.”
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He noted that although residents in Bondi were out in numbers before the easing of restrictions in their area, there was no effort by police to enforce the regulations as they stood.
He said that he informed New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian of his concerns in a meeting yesterday. He said the premier responded that her Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott, had assured her that all were being treated fairly.
The criticism came following the partial lifting of restrictions in some of Sydney suburbs that allowed for vaccinated adults to meet in groups of five for outdoor activities. The easing of the restrictions followed as the state reached a COVID-19 vaccination milestone with 70 percent of people in New South Wales having received their first dose.
Cumberland with a population of 250,000 people is an LGA of concern and regulations were eased to allow fully vaccinated adults who were fully vaccinated to spend two hours in the day outside with other members of their household or with one person from another household.
Cr Christou said that the reasons given for the differences in regulations had to do with the fact that vaccination rates for adults in his area had not been as high as in the eastern suburbs of the city.
“Two months ago, our residents could not gain access to vaccinations as they could in the eastern suburbs.
“Once we received those resources, we have become one of the leading communities receiving vaccinations.
“No vaccination hubs have been set up here yet we have reached vaccination levels of 80 percent without anyone’s help. The council ran a strong grassroots campaign (to vaccinate), we delivered pamphlets in five languages and reached out to the local media. The council initiated the vaccination initiative here, not the state government.”
He said that the virus had come into the west of Sydney from the eastern suburbs yet residents in his municipality were being unfairly treated.
The council was delivering 600 food parcels a week on its own initiative and had allocated $50,000 for more food hampers. The mayor also noted that while state parliament representatives had shut their offices and refused to attend parliament, the council fielded all queries and concerns from the public.
Cr Christou added that people in the city’s eastern suburbs had also criticised differences in the regulations and the way there were applied.
“We have received a lot of support from people in the eastern suburbs over the unfairness in the way the rules are being applied.”