A WARNING has been issued by NSW Police to slow down and follow the stay-at-home rules that continue to apply to everyone living or staying in Greater Sydney, including the Wollongong local government area (LGA), this October long weekend.
NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said it is essential that all drivers planning on travelling in NSW this long weekend comply with the existing Public Health Orders. More information can be found at: www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19
Police operation ‘October Long Weekend 2021’ starts at 12.01am today (Friday, October 1, 2021) and concludes at 11.59pm on Monday, October 4, 2021.
Minister Elliott has announced that the customary double-demerits process would be suspended for the duration of the October Long Weekend to give people a break.
“It’s been a long, tough COVID-blighted year in NSW and the long weekend marks a point in this journey where we can see the finishing line,” Mr Elliott said.
“Stay-at-home orders continue to apply to much of NSW, so the only people on the roads in lockdown areas should be those with a reasonable excuse.
“This is in no way a green light for drivers to break the rules – and Traffic and Highway Patrol officers will be out in force as usual – but this weekend we won’t be doubling-up the demerits,” Minister Elliott said.
Meanwhile Wollongong City Council is encouraging residents to continue to do the right thing when it comes to being out and about this long weekend.
The Illawarra is seeing significant COVID-19 cases in the community, with the NSW State Government repeatedly flagging concerns about the numbers of people who are COVID-positive in the Wollongong LGA.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said while there have been some changes to some restrictions, such as allowing picnics for targeted groups, people should remain cautious and not become complacent.
“We need to put a lid on COVID in Wollongong and that comes about by people remaining vigilant and doing the right thing,’’ he said.
“Even though the rules are relaxing, it’s a time for caution. I ask our community to continue to wear their masks, to continue to be socially distant and if you’re feeling unwell to get yourself tested and to stay at home.
“I know this is a tough ask as this has been a really difficult time and many of us may feel disconnected from family and friends, but it’s essential we keep doing the right thing for the wellbeing of our community.
“Of course, I also encourage those who haven’t already been vaccinated to do so. It’s easy – I am double vaxed with AstraZeneca and there is certainly a comfort that comes from knowing you’ve done what you can to protect yourself against COVID-19.’’
Cr Bradbery said the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District’s website and Facebook page provided the latest information about testing locations and places where you can get vaccinated.
To coincide with the October long weekend, Council will reopen its eight public pools to the community for summer.
There will be a range of measures in place to support a safer exercise opportunity with people needing to book ahead for their swim, check in using a QR code, wear a mask when not exercising and to enjoy their swim and go.
“Council has been working for some time on a plan to open our pools for summer and it’s really important for us to remember that the COVID-19 variant we’re dealing with now is different to what we were faced with last summer,’’ Cr Bradbery said.
“There is a significant amount of work that has gone on behind the scenes ahead of the pools opening on Saturday to ensure the safety of patrons and staff. We know our community relies upon Council for providing direction and leading by example when it comes to COVID-safe practices.
‘’We hope that our pool users will be reassured that there has been a very thorough planning, preparation and implementation process carried out before those gates swing open tomorrow. I encourage everyone who is visiting our pools to do the right thing and follow the requirements so that we can continue to enjoy these facilities over the summer months.’’
Cr Bradbery said those who choose not to hit the pools this weekend, but to enjoy our city’s parks, playgrounds, gardens and beaches should do so safely.
“While the weather forecast isn’t looking great for the whole weekend, if people are tempted to head out I suggest they plan ahead,’’ he said.
“We know our foreshore areas can get very popular so perhaps this is the time to find a new spot to explore if you are usually drawn to a busy location and if you’re visiting a popular playground, use the QR code to check in.
“Beachgoers should swim between the flags and head home rather than enjoying an extended social stay and if you’re using one of the shared pathways, be mindful of other users, keep a safe distance and wear your mask if it’s appropriate to do so.’’
Cr Bradbery said as discussions continue about the opening up of NSW as we hit the 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination rates, Council will continue to look at ways to support our local community.
“We’ve been offering a range of support measures for some time now that provide support for a wide range of people in our community – everything from community sport and creative industries to small businesses. These measures have been targeted at both the lockdown and recovery phase.’’
Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner Stephen Hegarty, said police will be targeting motorists breaking the law across the state, with a focus on regional areas not under stay-at-home orders, where more cars are expected on the road.
“Police still have the power to fine, charge or suspend the licence of any driver breaking the road rules and endangering lives.
“This long weekend, we’ll be targeting drink, drug, distracted and dangerous driving (Four Ds), speeding, and driving while tired, among other offences, across NSW – especially in regional areas where travel is permitted.
“As always, our focus remains the safety of the community across the state. We want all road users to return home to their loved ones,” Assistant Commissioner Hegarty said.
Police will also continue to monitor travel in and out of regional areas, including random checks on people leaving Greater Sydney and other areas under stay-at-home orders to ensure they have a permit to do so.
So far this year, 203 people have died in crashes on NSW roads – 147 of those in regional areas. For the same period last year, 219 people died in crashes in NSW – 143 of those in regional areas.
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