New South Wales police are investigating a man who reportedly left a Covid-infected family member in a Sydney hospital and travelled to Byron Bay while infectious with coronavirus to inspect property.
The man, understood to be in his 50s, drove with his two children to Byron and was in the Northern Rivers community for four days while infectious last week, during which time he reportedly did not comply with QR code check in requirements at venues. It is not clear if the man knew he was infectious or not.
On Tuesday, as the Byron Shire, Ballina Shire, Richmond Valley and Lismore were in the first full day of a snap week-long lockdown, NSW health minister Brad Hazzard said “police are looking extremely closely” at what the man was doing in the Byron area.
“I trust the police will be able to take appropriate action in due course,” he said.
By Tuesday evening, new exposure sites in the region had been named, including a Woolworths in Byron Bay for 4 August.
A NSW police spokesperson confirmed they were investigating the matter.
Hazzard said he had asked the NSW health legal department to look at where the rules could be tightened to limit travel to the regions.
“Hopefully any activity that might have been inappropriate or illegal will be dealt with by the police and courts.”
Byron Shire mayor Michael Lyon alleged the man was not isolating when he was sick, and didn’t get tested until he developed symptoms despite his family member’s earlier diagnosis. He also said the man appeared to have treated Covid with “complacency”.
Lyon told Guardian Australia he was frustrated that beyond the man’s alleged neglect of local Covid rules, his travel from Sydney appeared to be permitted because he claimed he was inspecting a property in the area.
“I haven’t heard the rationale about why that’s acceptable. If there’s an urgent reason to inspect a property, maybe if you’re fleeing domestic violence, I could understand why you could argue it’s warranted.”
Lyons said he was concerned reasons for real estate inspections were not being adequately policed, and that anecdotally he had heard of “plenty of cases” of people travelling to the Byron region for property inspections from locked down areas.
“My understanding is you can research a property online, wherever it is in the state, and then drive up to look at it, see it from the street and decide you’re not interested, and you’ve justified your travel.
“It raises concerns about the level of influence our property industry has in this pandemic and more broadly. Why is there such a focus on real estate to the detriment of public health?”