“[Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres] made it clear that the government understood our concerns about putting on the celebrations during a pandemic, and was prepared to work with the departments of health and transport and the police to mitigate the risks,” Cr Moore said.
“The minister assured us that on top of taking full responsibility for planning and cost of the fireworks, crowd management, safety, traffic and transport, the state government would be prepared to cancel the event if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“The community’s health and safety is paramount. If NSW Health and police can’t be certain that the event can be held safely, it should not go ahead.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Ayres’ office said there were no changes to New Year’s Eve celebrations.
But she said the government was monitoring the outbreak and “keeping the community safe is the main priority”.
During a stretch of no local cases last month, Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed a permit system would be in place for popular vantage points on New Year’s Eve to manage social distancing.
Under the scheme, entry to parts of the inner city and the foreshore surrounding the Harbour Bridge will be restricted and split into two “zones” from about 5pm.
Entry to the inner “green zone”, including The Rocks and Circular Quay, will be limited to residents, workers and those with bookings at venues such as restaurants, hotels or bars within that area.
Visitors can enter the surrounding “yellow zone”, including much of the CBD, Kings Cross, Pyrmont, Balmain East, North Sydney, Kirribilli and Cremorne, but police may move on people who gather in large numbers.
Some vantage points inside the green zone, including Sydney Opera House, Cahill Expressway, Campbell’s Cove and Mrs Macquarie’s Point, will be reserved for frontline workers.
In North Sydney, Bradfield Park, Blues Point Reserve, Mary Booth Reserve, Quibaree Park, Kurraba Reserve and Cremorne Reserve, will be closed.
North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson said she was “keeping an eye” on the situation given it was “changing daily”. “Like everyone else, the council will have to work out how this recent outbreak affects our municipality and our plans for New Year’s Eve.”
Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne has expressed concerns about crowds gathering at vantage points outside the “yellow” zone in Balmain and Birchgrove, even though the council will shut its waterfront parks to deter crowds.
“It just seems like such an obvious health risk. Say 5000 people show up – there’ll be no barriers in place, no COVID-safe marshalls and no QR codes so there will be no contact tracing capability,” Cr Byrne said.
He said the government needed to provide councils with a COVID-safe plan for managing those areas – particularly given the Avalon cluster – or to at least make it clear members of the public should stay away.
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Megan Gorrey is the Urban Affairs reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.