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Home Covid-19 Byron Bay's 'body-to-body' crowds and bungled COVID sewage tests worry locals

Byron Bay’s ‘body-to-body’ crowds and bungled COVID sewage tests worry locals


#Byron #Bay locals fear a deadly cocktail is brewing as visitors flock to the popular destination for #New #Year’s #Eve celebrations, amid news that authorities have bungled the local COVID sewage testing results.

#Locals have been working overtime in recent days to clean up rubbish and broken glass after nightly parties in the town’s foreshore parks and beaches.

#Police on high alert

#Police are investigating an incident on #Wednesday night where as many as 10 young people climbed onto the roof of a building near the public swimming pool close to #Main #Beach, with some of them jumping into the crowds below.

#Byron #Bay local of 25 years #Grant #Gregor said the incident was reminiscent of the scene of #New #Year’s #Eve in 1993 when a man jumped from the roof of a building at one of #Byron #Bay’s main intersections.

#Mr #Gregor said the vibe in 2020 was similar.

#Byron #Shire #Council and the local community worked to clean up #Byron #Bay’s ‘party town’ reputation after #New #Year celebrations got out of control in 1993.
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“#Lots of street drinking starting in the mornings, and things like that,” #Mr #Gregor said.

“#With people being locked up all year, I think there is a lot of pent-up energy that people are looking to expend tonight in #Byron #Bay.”

#Acting #Inspector #Rod #Morris from the #Tweed-Byron #Police #District said 90 officers would be patrolling the streets of #Byron #Bay tonight, up from just two crews on #Wednesday night.

#Acting #Inspector #Morris said it seemed like “every backpacker in #Australia” had converged on the town for #New #Year celebrations, but added that the police force had been planning its response for a long time and directing resources to the area in anticipation of the influx of tourists.

#Acting #Byron #Shire #Mayor #Michael #Lyon said he was concerned by the number of people in #Byron, but the council had been looking at ways to control things and keep people safe.

Surfers at sunset on a beach
#Byron has always been popular with backpackers and holidaymakers.(#Supplied)

#Cr #Lyon said the council had been working closely with police and the #National #Parks and #Wildlife #Service to crack down on illegal doof parties being held on the beaches and in the dunes in recent weeks, to prevent more parties.

#He said every ranger employed by the council would be working on #Thursday night to try to enforce its alcohol-free zones and other compliance issues.

#Tests bungled as #Byron reaches ‘tipping point’

#Adding to the tension in the community, it has been revealed that a COVID testing program has been mishandled.

#Byron #Shire resident #Nicqui #Yazdi has been running a community COVID information site since #February.

#She said she became concerned about the rate of sewage testing when results failed to appear on the NSW #Health website for several consecutive weeks.

“#This is something I’ve been looking at every week for a long time, so seeing that #Byron’s results were not put on the NSW #Health COVID surveillance site for a month, it led me to make some inquiries,” #Ms #Yazdi said.

#In an email to #Ms #Yazdi, the head of the #Northern NSW #Local #Health #District, #Wayne #Jones, admitted there had been a procedural error with #Byron’s sewage testing.

COVID samples invalid

#Mr #Jones said staff at the #Byron collection point froze the sewage samples instead of placing them in the refrigerator “rendering the samples invalid”.

#He said the error was only identified when the specimens arrived at the laboratory.

#Mr #Jones said the error had now been corrected with #Byron council’s collection staff, and an additional sample was collected yesterday, with the result expected in coming days.

#Ms #Yazdi said the procedural error was extremely “concerning” given the coronavirus risk in #Byron due to the sheer number of people holidaying in the small coastal town from across the state.

High tide at Byron taken early in December when it reached 1.9 metres.
#This is what high tide at #Byron looked like earlier this month when it reached 1.9 metres. #Tonight’s high tide is predicted to be 1.2 metres.(ABC #News: #Peter #Tyrus)

“I think it’s urgent right now for #Byron to make sure that the community is safeguarded because it has reached tipping point where there are more tourists then locals in #Byron at the moment,” she said.

“They are body-to-body, and there is no way to socially distance in #Byron at the moment during the day, or at night, in a supermarket, in a cafe, in a shop or anywhere because there’s just so many people.

#Mr #Jones said there had been almost 91,000 COVID tests carried out in the health district, which is second only to #Western NSW in terms of volume compared to other regional health districts in the state.

Locals inspect trees that are uprooted on the beach at Byron Bay.
#Locals inspect erosion damage to the beach earlier this month.(AAP: #Dan #Peled)

#But #Mr #Jones conceded the testing rate was below other areas when compared to the tests per 1,000 population.

#North #Coast #Public #Health #Director #Paul #Corben said while the “operational hiccup” was unfortunate, sewage testing was not the main form of COVID surveillance.

“#It doesn’t actually tell us that we’ve got infectious people in the area necessarily,” he said.

“#It may tell us that we’ve got people who have recovered from COVID who are no longer infectious but are still shedding the virus.

#Mr #Corben said the risk of a COVID case on the #North #Coast remained high because of cases circulating in other parts of the state.

“#While we’re pretty confident … that we don’t have cases on the #North #Coast, we have to remain vigilant,” he said.

Erosion on a beach.
#Erosion from severe storms earlier this month has left the beaches at #Byron devastated and dangerous.(ABC #News)

#Stay out of the water

#Surf #Lifesavers are also bracing for the crowds they expect to be on the beaches on #Thursday

#Special patrols will be run until 2am #New #Year’s #Day, and infra-red binoculars will help lifeguards keep an eye on the water.

#Jimmy #Keough, from #Surf #Lifesaving NSW, said the combination of a high tide tonight about 10pm, severe erosion from a recent storm, unstable sand dunes and exposed underwater piers were all potential hazards.

#Grant #Gregor said he doubted the efforts of police and other authorities would control the situation.

“#It doesn’t matter how many police are on the ground, they just can’t control it, because if they are up at #Main #Beach, then people are partying at #Belongil or #Tallows,” he said.

#Loading…

#Cr #Lyon said ultimately the community and individuals had to act responsibly.

“#We are doing what we can, but we need all of our community to keep reiterating the message to everyone, that includes if you are an accommodation provider or you have people staying with you, that this is not #Byron of the ’90s party town,” he said.



[ source link ]
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-31/byron-crowds-and-bungled-covid-tests/13023550

##Byron ##Bays #bodytobody #crowds #bungled #COVID #sewage #tests #worry #locals

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