Chief Health Officer's incredible response to Clarence snub
AS THE Queensland border zone expands into NSW today, Queensland's Chief Health Officer has answered the burning question for many in the Clarence Valley - why was the Clarence left out?
The answer may make sense in Queensland, but may leave many Clarence Valley residents confused.
Dr Jeanette Young was in Townsville yesterday alongside deputy premier Stephen Miles where they announced new PPE warehouses for the state.
During the press conference, Townsville Bulletin political reporter, and former Daily Examiner journalist Caitlan Charles asked Dr Young why the Clarence Valley had been left out of the Queensland border exclusion zones, when they had less case numbers and recent cases than included areas such as Byron Bay.
Dr Young responded it was about how far the area was from the border.
"The decision was made to include those places closest to the border because those people have more linkages with Queensland, in particular Brisbane, than they do with Sydney," she said.
"As you go further south, you would expect the people who live there have closer linkages with Sydney, and it's Sydney that is the risk at the moment. So it's people moving between those areas and Sydney."
Dr Young said earlier in the interview that NSW has had a really good response to getting on top of their clusters, and referenced the Northern Rivers in her response.
"We've seen that northern NSW has been very spared, they've not had an outbreak," she said.
"They had one early on in Byron Bay, but they've managed that - and since that - it's more than a month ago they've not had any further cases."The words will only fuel the confusion of Clarence Valley residents, whose figures show their last active case on March 28.
Also, measuring from Grafton, Brisbane is 316km from Grafton, while Sydney is 612km, almost double the distance.
In the neighbouring Glen Innes shire, which is included in the Queensland border zone, Glen Innes is 572km from Sydney, and 368km from Brisbane.
The words have again fired up local member Chris Gulaptis, who responded to the words of the chief health officer in a statement yesterday.
"The Clarence Valley is considered a part of Northern NSW. It is part of the Northern NSW Local Health District. It has not had a case of coronavirus since March 28, some four months earlier than Byron Bay," he said.
"It is the only local government area in the Northern NSW Local Health District not to be included in the expanded border zone bubble."
He further took issue with the assertion of the Clarence Valley's closer connection to Sydney, rather than Queensland and Brisbane.
"It just reaffirms my belief that decisions being made are not based on scientific evidence," Mr Gulaptis said.
"To suggest the Clarence Valley is closer to Sydney than Brisbane is ludicrous. The Chief Medical Officer is ignorant to the fact the Clarence Valley is around a three-hour drive to Brisbane (depending on where you are travelling from), while a trip to Sydney takes around seven hours.
"In fact, if you used Google Maps to measure a trip from the northern end of the Clarence Valley boundary at Tabbimoble to the southern end of the Queensland boundary at Tugan, it is under a two hour trip! It is bizarre maths."
Mr Gulaptis said the arrangements were not consistent with the Federation that Henry Parkes dreamt of and that had made Australia great country.
"It's un-Australian and inhumane to deprive residents of the Clarence Valley the right to access medical treatment on the Gold Coast or Brisbane," he said.
"It's inhumane to prevent family from supporting sick family members in Queensland or to attend the birth of their children and grandchildren or to attend the funeral of a loved one.
"It's also stalling the delivery of infrastructure projects and economic growth with a number of workers from our neck of the woods engaged with Queensland contractors and vice versa."
The Chief Health Officer also flagged in her press conference that it may be some time before there is any change in decision for residents of the Clarence Valley and beyond.
"At the moment we would hope within 28 days of NSW not having any of those unlinked community cases we should be able to reopen," Dr Young said.
"The soonest that would be is towards the end of October.
"At the end of each month, we review all of the situation with all of our borders and make our decision then, so I imagine we will be making that cool towards the end of October."
A Queensland Health spokesperson did not respond directly to the Chief Health Officer's words about the Clarence's distance being a major factor, replying with the same words they have for the past week.
"Proximity to the Queensland border is just one of several factors that are considered when making these difficult and complex decisions," they said.
"Factors include, but are not limited to, number of cases, source of infection, the general movement of people, connection to Queensland through work, recreation or regular access to services such as health and education, and location of key services for border towns on both sides of the border."
The extended border zone opened at 1am this morning. People wishing to cross the border still need to apply for a border pass through the Queensland Government website.