Byron backpacker hostel goes into lockdown

NSW schoolies under threat as 84 people confined inside hostel

As thousands of NSW schoolies head for Byron Bay, Northern NSW health authorities have locked down a popular backpackers hostel after a resident tested positive to COVID-19.

Police are patrolling the hostel, the Aquarius Backpackers on Lawson Street, where a total of 84 close contacts including guests and staff are now under a stop and stay order and not allowed to leave for seven days.

The lockdown was sparked by a young woman from Victoria residing at the hostel who tested positive for COVID-19.

Chief executive of Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD), Wayne Jones said contact tracing has begun and on-site COVID testing is being arranged with guests and on-site staff under a stop and stay order.

“If required, NNSWLHD will also arrange vaccination for any eligible contact,” Mr 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 the situation and said that all 84 people will remain in lockdown for seven days and are being supported with food and health support.

Ms Smith said her thoughts are with everyone in that situation as it will be a tough time.

“I will keep checking in to make sure that people are getting the support they need,” she said.

“My concern is that they have what they need and that no-one is getting out and into the community.”

She said further a spread would be “catastrophic” for the region, and may lead to a communitywide lockdown.

The Byron Shire, which has seen anti-vaccination protests from some parts of the community, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in NSW, with its 80.6 percent  eligible population vaccination rate falling well behind the state’s current 94.4 percent vaccination figure.

“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,” Ms Smith said.

“We want to make sure that the situation is contained and that people are safe and getting the support they need.”

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