The Hunter is in crisis, with the latest COVID outbreak prompting a regionwide lockdown that has now been extended. I want the Prime Minister, the health minister and the New South Wales Premier to feel the urgent pressures our region is under. Across the Hunter, businesses and individuals are buckling with the loss of income and sudden upheaval, not to mention the fear and scramble to try to get vaccinated. I'm being contacted by many residents who are experiencing more than a week's delay in the issuing of testing results. We have too few testing centres and a vastly growing backlog of results. The government must provide urgent support to fast-track testing results.
Tomago Aluminium, a major manufacturer in my region and seat, has seen an increased group of its 11,000 staff designated as close or casual contracts, each then requiring testing and isolation until a negative test is confirmed. That can take up to a week. The risk to this business alone is that the smelter is real; they can't work from home. It can't be shut down, nor can people who operate it or maintain it work from home. Why are people waiting three to five hours to be tested then waiting more than a week to get their results back? We need dedicated testing centres for close and casual contacts. We need express results for skilled workers who can't work remotely.