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NSW government ‘ignored health advice’ from Kerry Chant, new emails show


An email sent by NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant to Health Minister Brad Hazzard on August 14 showed she recommended “consistent measures across greater metropolitan Sydney”. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard
An email sent by NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant to Health Minister Brad Hazzard on August 14 showed she recommended “consistent measures across greater metropolitan Sydney”. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

Newly released documents reveal the NSW government ignored health advice to apply the same coronavirus lockdown rules across all of Sydney.

An email sent by NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant to Health Minister Brad Hazzard on August 14 showed she recommended “consistent measures across greater metropolitan Sydney”.

But the extra-tough lockdown rules in Sydney’s west and southwest were not brought in line with the rest of the city until September 20.

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A western Sydney opposition politician said the email proved locals “were right to feel targeted” and called the revelations “absolutely horrific”.

“The Government hated it when we pointed to a Tale of Two Cities. They accused us of being political – evidence we were speaking the truth,” Lakemba MP Jihad Dib said.

“When the health advice said one thing, the Government did the other. We were right to feel targeted.”

Sydney’ latest lockdown began in the last weekend of June, after an airport breach caused the Delta variant of the coronavirus to spread in the city.

Although the outbreak began in the eastern suburbs, the spread soon got worse in the city’s west.

By the second week of July, police had begun a crackdown in the western suburbs to make sure locals adhered to the lockdown.

And by the time Dr Chant wrote her August 14 email, the rules had tightened several times in an expanding area of western and southwestern Sydney where the virus was spreading the fastest.

Among the harsher rules was a ban on leaving hotspot LGAs, whereas people in other parts of the city were allowed more freedom of movement.

But the top doctor recommended the rules be made consistent.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard and chief health officer Kerry Chant. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard
Health Minister Brad Hazzard and chief health officer Kerry Chant. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

“Implement consistent measures across greater metropolitan Sydney with outdoor masks, consistent 5km rule and authorised workers only,” she wrote in a list of recommendations.

Former premier Gladys Berejiklian, who led the state through much of the pandemic until she resigned last October, consistently argued she relied on health advice from Dr Chant’s team in her decision making around the lockdown.

That health advice has mostly been kept secret until Labor MPs recently managed to access parts of it through an order in parliament.

“These revelations show they ignored health advice and left Sydney’s west and south-west under tougher restrictions when it is clear consistency should have been applied across the whole of Greater Sydney,” NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns said.

“Some of the harshest restrictions the country has seen were imposed on western Sydney communities. The government with Dominic Perrottet front and centre split Sydney in two, when there should not have been a divide.”

Mr Hazzard has been contacted for comment.

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