NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro insists he is not trying to offend or blame anyone in talking up the COVID-19 risk to NSW from what he calls the ACT's 'escalating crisis', an outbreak linked by genomic testing to Sydney.
The state Nationals leader and Monaro MP has flagged the NSW and ACT governments are to urgently review the authorised workers list allowing exemptions for crossing the border.
The Deputy Premier said on Thursday the "escalating crisis occurring in Canberra" was causing concern for the surrounding regions. He has also been speaking of the "threat coming out of Canberra".
"And I don't say that to offend them, because Canberra will say it all started in NSW," he told regional journalists on Thursday.
"Every time I say, you know, the issue in Canberra impacts us, they seem to get offended.
"It's not blaming them. It's just the reality."
While the ACT index case is still a mystery, the virus has been pinpointed as coming from across the border in Covid-hit NSW, which on Thursday recorded a record 681 cases and has had the regional lockdown extended until August 28.
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Alongside the 22 cases in the ACT, 83 active cases in total, there have been two positive cases discovered in the border town of Queanbeyan. They are NSW residents who work in the ACT.
Mr Barilaro said contact tracers were working out the movements of the positive Queanbeyan cases and he has indicated there may be some exposure sites in Queanbeyan.
He says he has been expressing concern for the regions, particularly with the interconnectivity between Canberra and Queanbeyan, and insists he is not being political when talking about the national capital.
"Why I say, I don't blame Canberra, because Canberra blames Sydney's outbreak for the reason they they are in this predicament, so I've got to be very careful when I say that," he said.
"I don't say that about blaming anybody. The reality is, is that Delta is transmissible and contagious and individuals make decisions to visit regions that have cases. And those individuals bring it back to the community."
The ACT Chief Minister has raised communication challenges during discussion in national cabinet as the Delta outbreak has spread out of greater Sydney. He has also called for stronger co-ordination between the ACT and NSW governments.
The Deputy Premier said he has a "very good working relationship" with Mr Barr and that he has supported his actions over COVID-19, particularly his decision to lock down immediately, "because we've learned lessons here in Sydney".
"So it's nothing political about it, it is the health message," he said.
"You know, the ACT will make decisions that are best for the ACT and its citizens, so that they can get out of their lockdown sooner and quicker, that they can manage their vaccine roll out sooner and quicker. And we're working with them.
"But there's nothing political, it's all to do with making sure people understand the risk there is associated with Canberra, but there's the risk that now is associated with New South Wales."
Mr Barilaro said the authorised worker list was under review.
"We'll be looking at the authorised workers list, working with our ACT counterparts to see if there are gaps, or do we need to streamline or strengthen anything? We will do that."
"But at this stage, those two individuals in Queanbeyan or the one in Goulburn, it's directly a situation of home to work and then bringing it back."
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