Key country MPs say SA’s regional areas have suffered undue hardship during the pandemic and shouldn’t be subjected to snap lockdowns and restrictions.
By Elizabeth Henson and Gabriel Polychronis
The State Government should examine a plan to remove the long-suffering regions of South Australia from snap lockdowns and restrictions, key country MPs say.
Narungga MP Fraser Ellis said “more clarity” was needed about SA’s path out of the pandemic and its impact on the regions.
“Considering regional SA has not had an outbreak over the duration of the emergency but has been subjected to the same restrictions as metro areas, perhaps a plan to remove restrictions in regional SA is a good place to start,” said Mr Ellis, whose membership of the Liberal Party is suspended while he fights a travel allowance scandal.
Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell agreed, saying regional SA had to be treated differently and had suffered undue hardship throughout Covid-19.
“It just seems ridiculous to me that if there is an outbreak in the city, places that would be 450km away would have severe restrictions put on them when there’s no health risk and low threat of transmission,” Mr Bell said.
The Independent MP said more “clarity” was needed on the state of emergency powers and “when those powers are going to return back to the democratically-elected people”.
Since March last year, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has acted as the state co-ordinator under the Emergency Management Act, giving him sweeping powers to impose snap border closures, quarantine measures, various Covid restrictions and the ability to enforce the QR check-in system.
The powers were used on Sunday afternoon to impose immediate border closures on Queensland, Western Australia, NT and ACT.
The emergency declaration continues to be extended on a rolling basis and is reviewed every 28 days.
A state government spokesman reaffirmed its plan to ensure SA keeps the “lightest restrictions in the nation, if not globally”.
“We will not keep restrictions in place a second longer than necessary during these unprecedented times but it remains important the government is able to progress protections for the health and safety of South Australians very quickly when needed,” he said.
Mr Ellis said the impact on the regions of snap lockdowns and restrictions was significant.
“We still have small regional pubs struggling with capacity, small business and volunteer groups struggling to enforce QR code check-ins and community events operating under extremely onerous SA Health Covid management plans,” he said.
Mr Stevens said for the emergency declaration to be revoked, authorities would need to be satisfied that the various Covid measures were no longer required. Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier also expressed concerns for SA’s remote Indigenous community in the wake of NT’s lockdown.