Covid-19 and Lake Macquarie Electorate

21st October 2020

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (19:23:35): I do not think that I need to tell anyone in this House how surreal the past seven months have been. Like many parts of New South Wales, Lake Macquarie started the year under the pall of major bushfires on the back of a devastating drought. Then came the floods, all leading up to the arrival of a global COVID-19 pandemic. Madam Deputy Speaker, your electorate might have led the way with the fires. You faced them very early.

In March I did not imagine I would be standing here in October to talk about how pleased I was that COVID?19 has not claimed a single life in my electorate. Nor did I think I would be reporting fewer than 30 cases of the deadly virus in my local community. A small part of that might come down to luck but we all know it takes a much bigger effort than that. We have a long way to go before COVID-19 can be confined to history. We know that we must try to contain it, keep ahead of it and live with it until there is a vaccine or a widely effective cure. I want to take this opportunity to recognise some of the extraordinary efforts that not only have kept a lid on COVID outbreaks but have kept our communities going.

Since the broader outbreak of COVID-19 in March, New South Wales has recorded fewer than 4,200 cases and 55 deaths. Victoria has recorded five times that amount and more than 800 deaths. On Monday, in a single day France recorded more than 32,000 new cases and 89 deaths—the same day that New South Wales recorded zero community transmission. Obviously we have a significant difference in population but we have been spared the diabolical situations we are seeing abroad and even interstate because we have had, by and large, very good leadership.

I acknowledge the tremendous work of New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant. I also wish to acknowledge Premier Gladys Berejiklian and health Minister Brad Hazzard. There were early holes in the State's defences and parts of the State's response which seemed chaotic but I do not think that that should cloud the bigger picture of how the State's leaders have traversed an extremely difficult period in our history. Also we have wonderful communities like those in Lake Macquarie that have pulled together and have worked tirelessly in new and unique ways to look after our most vulnerable. My local community includes our nurses and doctors who work in the Hunter?New England Health District and our other medical and aged care staff, together with our teachers, police, retail staff and other essential workers who have stepped up during this very difficult time.

At a local level in Lake Macquarie, there are people checking in on their elderly neighbours, looking out for each other and making sure no?one has been left behind. We have remarkable charities and organisations that have provided an essential layer to our COVID-19 defences. I simply cannot name them all tonight but I want to mention several who have found ways to continue their work throughout the COVID?19 crisis. Christine Mastello and her extraordinary band of volunteers and donors at Southlakes Incorporated have not stopped for seven months. In a 13-week period between April and June, Southlakes delivered more than 7,500 food hampers to local people in need. It also delivered more than 15 tonnes of fresh produce and more than 14,000 loaves of bread. These deliveries did not just go to our frail aged but to families who had lost jobs and income and to our disabled and our homebound who simply could not get out to buy essentials.

In a similar way, Morisset Meals on Wheels never stopped delivering to hundreds of locals who rely on them to survive. These people and groups—and there are many more—have played an extraordinary role in Lake Macquarie over the past seven months. Their work has been crucial, selfless and inspirational and deserves our thanks. As it stands, there have been fewer than 400 COVID-19 cases in the entire Hunter?New England Health district and the sad loss of four lives. Health agencies estimate that as many as 32,000 cases could have been recorded in the district if nothing had been done to stop the spread, together with, tragically, the loss of many more lives. The economic cost of the response has been and will continue to be enormous but that cannot be our only focus. As much as we would like to think that COVID-19 will soon be a thing of the past it will not be and we have challenging times ahead. But sometimes it is good to take a moment to acknowledge a job well done and to be thankful for what our leaders, our health agencies and our local communities have achieved. I thank them all—those in this House, in our local hospitals and in our local communities. Not all of us would have been here without you. I give my thanks.

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