Kindness, care, compassion are what we need

The latest information released by the Northern NSW Local Health District today (5 January 2021) showed there were 576 new COVID cases to 8pm last night with 96 in the Byron Shire.

There are 26 people in hospital and 4 in intensive care and tragically, we have learned today that Craig Ruddy, well-known locally based artist and Archibald Prize winner, has died as a result of complications from COVID-19. Our thoughts are with his partner and family.

With the number of COVID cases in the Byron Shire and across the Northern Rivers steadily increasing, Byron Shire Mayor, Michael Lyon, has questioned the handling of testing by the NSW and Australian Governments.

There have been long queues at testing facilities in Byron Bay for several weeks and in the absence of PCR tests there are also very few rapid antigen tests (RAT) available.

“There’s no doubt that from a planning perspective NSW has been found wanting in our preparation for the re-opening last month.

“It’s a very stressful and emotional time for people who are not only frustrated by the lack of access to tests but they are concerned for their health and that of loved ones and friends,” Byron Shire Mayor, Michael Lyon said.

“Even if the RAT tests were available, they are expensive and beyond the reach of many people in our community,” he said.

“Added to which the rules about testing and isolation are confusing and keep changing and this needs to be addressed quickly in terms of simplifying and clarifying the rules so that everyone is on the same page.

“We all need to be able to get access to testing when required regardless of means or location.

“Fortunately, we have high vaccination rates in the Byron Shire and even higher across the region and we will get through this as individuals and as a community,” Mayor Lyon said.

“I encourage people who have been vaccinated to book in for their booster shot and to all the people in our health system who have been working so hard – thank you.

“COVID is a part of our lives and there is no changing this so we need to be prepared because it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

“The very harsh reality is that some of us will lose loved ones so now, more than ever, it’s time to support each other, look out for each other and be kind to each other,” Mayor Lyon said.