Three in five people in western NSW with Covid-19 are Indigenous

By Tiffanie Turnbull and Hannah Ryan
Federal Parkes MP Mark Coulton has defended the vaccine rollout in his western NSW electorate. (AAP)

Three out of every five people testing positive for COVID-19 in western NSW are Indigenous, as the region records its third death.

An Aboriginal man in his 60s from Dubbo was among nine deaths recorded in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, when the state also recorded another 1480 locally acquired cases.

Of those cases, 17 were diagnosed in Dubbo, six in Bourke - which include three in Enngonia - three in Bathurst, one in Walgett, and another seven in Wilcannia in the far west.

There were 60 cases from the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, 34 from the Illawarra Shoalhaven, 15 from the Central Coast and 11 are from the Hunter New England region.

A decision on the extension of COVID-19 lockdown in regional NSW - that's due to expire on Friday - will be made later this week.

Some parts of regional NSW are heavily COVID-affected while others are COVID-free and there's speculation that some districts could emerge from the state-wide lockdown earlier than others if they have few or no COVID-19 cases.

Three people have now died in the state's regions during the latest outbreak, which began in Sydney in June. All three were in Indigenous.

A well-known Aboriginal Elder from Enngonia, a woman in her 70s, died from COVID-19 on Monday.

Her death came after an Aboriginal man from Dubbo in his 50s died in August - the first Indigenous COVID-19 death in the country.

Aboriginal people are over-represented in the region's case numbers too.

While Indigenous people make up 13 per cent of the population of the Western NSW Local Health District, they represent 60 per cent of the district's positive cases.

Some 885 people have acquired the virus in that district the last few months, more than 600 of whom live in Dubbo.

More than 13 per cent of the majority-Indigenous town of Wilcannia, population 745, has now been infected.

An outbreak in Enngonia has infected at least 21 people in a town of just 148, one hour from the nearest hospital. Some 44.9 per cent of residents are Indigenous.

State MP Roy Butler says the outbreak in western NSW should never have happened.

"(The virus) should never have gotten out of Sydney," the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP, whose electorate includes both Enngonia and Wilcannia, told AAP.

Mr Butler said the NSW government was too slow to clamp down on people leaving Sydney after the city's outbreak began.

He said he warned Premier Gladys Berejiklian 18 months ago that a leak of the virus to the regions would be devastating, and that the government has fallen short on planning.

Federal Parkes MP Mark Coulton agreed the outbreak in his electorate was a "huge concern".

"As a government, we knew it was going to be a huge problem should these more remote and isolated communities get COVID, and that's been proved," the Nationals MP said.

But Mr Coulton said efforts on the ground were preventing the outbreak spiralling out of control.

"Tragic as (it) is, it could be much worse," he said.


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