The Member for Kiama, Gareth Ward, has told local business people, at an online forum organised by the Kiama & District Business Chamber, to expect an acceleration of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the coming weeks.
“We want to reopen the state, but we want to do it safely,” he said.
“The first priority will remain health and safety.
“Over the next couple of weeks you are going to see a quick paced acceleration, but that will depend entirely on how the virus goes.
“If we see spreads through people doing the wrong thing, and there is a second wave, then we may have to pull back.
“That would be devastating, so we have to make haste slowly.”
He says his insights as a Cabinet minister (he holds the portfolio of Families, Communities and Disability Services) makes him understand the bullet we have dodged.
“Some of the Cabinet’s health briefings early on, giving predictions of what this could have looked like for us, were truly horrifying.
“Rightfully people who have lost everything will be absolutely devastated.
“There will be businesses that won’t reopen, there will be people who have lost their jobs for good.
“We’ve made some really tough decisions and we are going to have to keep making them.
“But if you look at countries around the world where hundreds of thousands of people have died, the fact we’ve done so well is a credit to everyone.
“I will put our record in this state and this country against anyone’s around the world.”
The Illawarra and Shoalhaven have recorded just 121 COVID-19 cases.
The focus is now on reopening the economy, by working through how various industries can operate safely.
Minister Ward acknowledged there are some inconsistencies at this stage, but said it was largely due to differences between industries.
He says to expect further relaxation of the restrictions around numbers.
“I want to see the numbers increased for weddings and funerals, as well as other gatherings.
“We want festivals and markets to return, but we want to do it safely.
“We are making announcements, and then watching, as this thing is so dangerous. The indications so far are very good.
“I’d like to think that we could have bigger venues open, bigger gatherings and events, but the cavaet on it all is to be safe.”
He urged businesses to check their eligibility for the various assistance packages available from the State and Federal governments, and for businesses to contact him with any particular concerns they have.
At present, all new infections in NSW are people in quarantine after coming from overseas