UPDATE: Friday, July 23, 10am
Business Hunter has called on the NSW Government to remove the 50-kilometre COVID-19 testing leeway zone for workers from Greater Sydney.
As reported in the Newcastle Herald on Friday, the 50km exemption zone starts at the bottom of Lake Macquarie and includes Cessnock, meaning Greater Sydney residents are not required to have a COVID test before travelling to the region for work.
Cessnock City Council is calling for clarity about COVID testing rules for Greater Sydney workers and an increased police presence in the Hunter region to deter people from breaking the Public Health Order.
The issue was brought to Wednesday's council meeting as a motion of urgency tabled by Labor councillor Anthony Burke.
Under the Public Health Order, workers in Greater Sydney must have been tested for COVID-19 in the previous seven days (or every 72 hours for authorised workers who live in the Fairfield, Liverpool or Canterbury-Bankstown local government areas) to enter a premises for work that is more than 50 kilometres outside of Greater Sydney.
However, confusion remains around whether these workers require a negative result before departing Greater Sydney.
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Cr Burke said the rules should be updated to state that these workers must provide evidence of a negative result, not just the test itself.
"Someone could be tested in the morning, come to Cessnock for work, go home and in the evening receive a positive result," he said.
"In my opinion, that is too late.
"I, and many in the community, feel that this is putting our community at risk.
"Cessnock and the Hunter region can't afford to have our region close down any more than it has in the past 18 months.
"We've done well at keeping COVID-19 at bay in our region, our businesses are doing well with the QR codes system, our local people are doing well at wearing their masks, so let's not have another huge risk factor brought into the area.
"I'm not saying that people (workers from Sydney) are not allowed to come to this area... It's all about having the process tweaked so that they have to show a negative result, not just a COVID test. To me that's common sense."
Along with the review of the testing rules, council will also ask the NSW Government for an increase of police patrols in the Cessnock and Hunter regions to prevent people coming from Greater Sydney without a valid reason; and for the Federal Government provide financial support (such as JobKeeper) for workers to prevent them having to unnecessarily leave Sydney for work.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said on Thursday councillors have listened to the community and share their concerns.
"The possibility and risks of people entering our region from Greater Sydney is a cause of concern for our many of us," he said.
"The risk to the regions is real and the people of Orange are feeling that first-hand. We've managed to avoid the Delta variant making its way into our community and we want to keep it that way."