MOREE Plains Shire Mayor Katrina Humphries urges all residents to enter a self-imposed lock-down as COVID-19 cases escalate across the region.

As of 8pm, Thursday, November 4, there were 54 cases recorded in the Moree LGA, including cases in Toomelah, Boggabilla and Mungindi.

There are also 12 cases reported in the Inverell Shire. These numbers are expected to increase in the coming days.

Some Moree businesses have elected to close completely while others have implemented restricted access to premises.

Moree Secondary College’s Albert Street and Carol Avenue campuses were closed and non-operational on Friday (today) to allow for contact-tracing and deep-cleaning after members of the school community tested positive to COVID-19.

Moree Junior Cricket, scheduled to start Saturday, and the Moree Markets at Jellicoe Park on Sunday, have both been cancelled.

Moree was also declared a restricted border zone area from 12.01am today, following the outbreaks.

Residents no longer have access across the Queensland border, except in exceptional circumstances including essential healthcare.

There were three positive cases recorded in the Goondiwindi LGA as of Thursday.

“In the light of the dreadful infection rates in Moree and surroundings, I am requesting we all stay at home wherever possible, work from home if possible, shut our shops if possible and get off the streets,” Mayor Humphries said in a heartfelt media release late Thursday.

“We need to take the pressure off our medical teams and try to take the sting out of this awful situation we are in.

“I call for this voluntary ‘get-off-the-streets’ to start as quickly as possible, for review on Monday.

“Our COVID-19 cases are doubling daily and there is a lack of QR-coding information because some reckless people have not been following health guidelines,” she said.

“Residents of Moree and surroundings, stay at home unless you need to get tested, need medical help or emergency supplies, or if you are an essential services provider and agricultural or harvest workers. The harvest is underway and really needs to continue.”

Mayor Humphries criticised NSW Health for a lack of public information.

“I am horrified at the time lag in regard to public information. Our community bush telegraph knows more about the local cases than our Health Department and this is unacceptable,” she said.

Local member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall said late Thursday Moree Secondary College will close both campuses until further notice.

“All staff and students have been asked to self-isolate until they receive further advice. There is no requirement to get tested at this time,” Mr Marshall said.

“Learning-from-home resources have been made available from the learning-from-home hub for students.

“It is expected the Moree cluster will continue to grow, but thankfully, none of the COVID-positive people locally have had to be hospitalised.

“Extra health staff members from across the region are in Moree to support additional testing and vaccinations in the community,” he said.

Moree Plains declared a restricted border zone area

At 12.01am on Friday Moree Plains Shire LGA was declared a restricted border zone area, Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk announced late Thursday.

In a media statement released Thursday night, Goondiwindi Regional Council said Moree Plains LGA will no longer have access across the Queensland border as part of the border bubble, except in exceptional circumstances. This includes essential healthcare and essential work.

Mayor Springborg said the border-town district has one of the highest vaccination rates in Queensland.

“Our tight-knit border community and businesses continue to bear the brunt of keeping Queensland safe.  We’ve done our bit and it is now time for everyone else to lift their vaccination rates,” Mayor Springborg said.

“We understand the Premier has committed to keeping the virus out of Queensland until December 17 and with slow vaccination levels in some areas, this means some communities aren’t ready, hence the Premier has introduced these changes.

“I genuinely hope this will be the incentive needed for increased vaccination rates in areas that are lagging both in Queensland and our cross-border communities. In the cases known to us in this outbreak in Goondiwindi, and just across the border, the virus at this stage is generally among unvaccinated or not fully-vaccinated people.  This reinforces the importance of vaccination – protecting ourselves, our family and our community,” he said.

Mayor Springborg said Goondiwindi residents at large were staying at home, social-distancing and wearing masks when out in public.

“I urge all border residents to continue to be cautious, but positive that our highly vaccinated Goondiwindi region community has the best possible protection.”

Premier Palaszczuk confirmed there will be an accompanying change to border directions, meaning unvaccinated people in the border zone will not be permitted to enter Queensland to places and services that are available only to vaccinated people in NSW.

“While this change is a welcome step, it would be simpler and more consistent for the new directive to align to the existing requirements for workers, which requires every border zone worker to be vaccinated prior to travelling across the border,” Mayor Springborg said.

There are fears the border closure could disrupt near-record wheat harvest operations currently in progress on either side of the border.

“Earlier this week, pre-emptively I had discussions with the Director-General of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Deputy Commissioner of Queensland Police Services and sought assurances that if there were to be any changes to border access, that our harvest operations should be allowed to continue with minimum disruption to workforce and logistics.  As late as Thursday evening I was assured this would be catered for,” he said.

People in Moree with even the mildest symptoms are urged to isolate and be tested for COVID-19.

Testing is available Friday at Moree Hospital (8.30am-3pm), Gateway Swab Clinic (8am-4pm) and Moree Respiratory Clinic at Pius X (8.30am-3pm).

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