A weeklong snap lockdown was imposed on the Aquarius Backpackers hostel in Byron Bay last night as thousands of teens head to the north coast for schoolies.
Health authorities locked the venue down after a guest tested positive for COVID-19 and 84 close contacts were identified.
Chief executive of Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) Wayne Jones said contact tracing has begun and on-site COVID testing is being arranged.
Jones said guests and on-site staff are now under a stop and stay order for at least the next 48 hours.
“If required, NNSWLHD will also arrange vaccination for any eligible contact,” Jones said.
“We continue to urge residents and visitors to our region to get tested immediately if they have even the mildest of symptoms.
“High rates of testing are critical to detecting transmission and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the community.”
Ballina MP Tamara Smith posted to Facebook confirming 84 people would need to stay at the hostel for a week and were being supported with food and health support.
Smith said police will be monitoring compliance at the Aquarius 24/7.
“My thoughts are with everyone in that situation as it will be a tough time, and I will keep checking in to make sure that people are getting the support they need,” she said.
The Byron Shire has one of the lowest vaccination rates in NSW, with 80.6 per cent of its eligible population vaccinated so far, lagging behind the state’s 94.4 per cent vaccination rate.
Smith told ABC News that everyone staying at the hotel is presumably vaccinated, but said she still holds concerns for their welfare.
“Seven days in a backpackers is tough. No-one has done anything wrong but it’s just very unfortunate,” she said.
“So my concern is that they have what they need and that no-one is getting out and into the community at the moment.”
She said further spread would be “catastrophic” for the region, and may lead to a communitywide lockdown.
“It’s schoolies at the moment and we have 16 flights a day coming into the Byron Ballina gateway airport. Everyone has been flocking to our region,” she said.
“We want to make sure that the situation is contained and that people are safe and getting the support they need.”