Wagga MP Joe McGirr has called for regional areas to be protected when Sydney residents regain the ability to travel across the state.
Dr McGirr has written to NSW Deputy John Barilaro to express concerns that regional communities will be left vulnerable if restrictions allow Sydney residents to travel as soon as the state hits a target of 70 per cent fully vaccinated.
"I am concerned that while the overall state average will have reached 70 per cent, the vaccination rates in many regional areas will not. This puts these communities at risk," Dr McGirr said.
"Not only do we need a roadmap for NSW, we need a regional roadmap.
"Once people are allowed to travel more widely, particularly from Sydney and other impacted areas, our regional communities are at increased risk."
Dr McGirr pointed to NSW health figures showing 50.9 per cent of eligible people living within the Wagga local government area were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as of Sunday, which was below the NSW average of 55.5 per cent.
"There are still a number of LGAs in NSW where the double dosed rate is less than 40 per cent, far below the state average," Dr McGirr said.
"Opening the state up when regional areas are lagging behind the state average will put our communities at risk.
"I have written to the Deputy Premier calling for a clear regional roadmap that ensures regional communities are protected from the greater risks that could come from having a lower proportion of fully vaccinated residents."
Mr Barilaro was on leave yesterday and unable to comment in response to Mr McGirr's letter but has spoken with regional MPs about Sydney residents being able to enter regional areas at a future point.
Multiple other regional MPs have contacted Mr Barilaro and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian with similar concerns.
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NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said there was "no clarity around that yet" in terms of how to get regional areas to catch up on vaccination rates.
"In the short term, while we are trying to work that out, please get vaccinated. If we all get vaccinated and get up to the 70 or 80 per cent when we open up, then problem solved," Mr Hazzard said.
Wagga-based Nationals MLC Wes Fang said the government would work on a policy if there was too much of a gap between regional vaccination rates.
"We are alive to it, it is something we are certainly considering as we approach the 70 per cent mark," he said.
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey said he shared Dr McGirr's concerns about Sydney residents visiting the area but he was not sure how the NSW government could create an effective policy to prevent it.
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