As the Berala COVID-19 cluster increased by two cases on Tuesday, New South Wales health authorities banned people from several suburbs in Sydney’s west from attending the Australia versus India cricket Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) this week.
Residents from Auburn, Berala, Lidcombe North, Regents Park, Rookwood, Potts Hill, Wentworthville and Belmore will cop a $1,000 fine if they “set foot inside the SCG” on Thursday, the state’s health minister, Brad Hazzard told media.
He also urged local multicultural community leaders to reinforce messaging around the importance of COVID-19 testing and social distancing practices in these suburbs that have large culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) populations.
Some have been unclear about whether the cricket ban also applies to people living in the Northern Beaches, where the latest NSW outbreak started around mid-December. There have been more than 145 cases linked to this cluster, and only 15 in the Berala cluster so far.
“WAIT so you’re not allowed to go to the cricket test if you’re from Berala & Auburn area (cop a 1k fine) but you can go if you’re from Northern Beaches??? What kind of classist bullshit haha wowww,” actor Arka Das tweeted on Tuesday.
“So predominantly the Anglo hotspots of the northern beaches are cool to attend the cricket, but multicultural suburbs like Berala and surrounding areas are not. I see what you did there,” another Twitter user wrote.
NSW Health confirmed to HuffPost Australia that those living in the northern area of the Northern Beaches are still under a stay-at-home order till January 9 and therefore not allowed to attend the cricket either.
However, people living in the southern area of the Northern Beaches are considered as part of Greater Sydney and are not in a strict lockdown. Residents from these suburbs are not banned from attending the cricket match. NSW Health lists which suburbs are ‘northern’ or ‘southern’ areas here.
Peter Doukas, Senior Deputy Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, said “it doesn’t look good” that suburbs with large CALD populations are being excluded, but “the government’s decision making is skewed around health concerns” and not ethnicities.
“I don’t think they’d be silly enough to be directing it based on where communities are and what kinds of communities would be coalescing at the cricket or otherwise,” said Doukas. “I think they’re making decisions entirely around health recommendations and that’s what we’re seeing.
“It doesn’t look good and it doesn’t pass the pub test that they direct people from one local government area that they should not be attending the cricket, however it’s no different from other spikes in other areas that we’ve seen up till now.”
New Cricket Attendance Rules
Only 9,500 spectators will be allowed inside the SCG on Thursday, with two-seat gaps.
“It’s crucial ... that people from certain suburbs in that Berala area do not attend this Test. You must not attend this Test,” Hazzard said on Tuesday.
“Now, ticket sales have gone in a way that is aimed at ensuring that people from particular suburbs around Berala do not acquire tickets and do not come to the Test. That’s for your sake and for our community’s sake.
“But, I want to alert the community in those suburbs, if any of you think that it’s still ok to come in with somebody who has got a ticket, or tickets, it won’t be ok.”
On Tuesday NSW recorded four new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday, two of which are linked to the Berala cluster. These two cases are a man who visited the BWS liquor store in Berala and a woman who had links to the BWS and the local Woolworths.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro urged locals to get tested and said the government is engaging with community leaders to spread the word.
“We had 26 clinics in the Berala area, and another in Berala, because of advice from that community,” he said.
“We’re talking to community leaders, we’re urging them to come forward, because I know in those particular communities, those mixed migrant groups, ethnic groups, the importance of getting community leaders to become ambassadors, to sell the message. Our message is to get tested, regardless of what the symptoms are.”
Dr Yadu Singh, President of the Federation of Indian Associations of NSW, said he and fellow community leaders have used social media and Whatsapp groups to encourage members to “go and get tested”.
“We do disseminate and transmit information, and we’re doing quite a good job of informing our people,” said Dr Singh, who shares any new COVID-19 restriction updates on Facebook.
“I’m very proud of the Indian community at least, [where] people are actually reading, and I see a lot of people sharing any changes to the rules or restrictions. I see that because they tag me [on social media].”
He said local temples also message members new COVID-19 updates, while those who aren’t familiar with English, such as elderly community members, usually get the message through younger family members.
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