More than 80 guests in lockdown at Byron Bay backpackers after confirmed COVID case

A backpacker hostel in Byron Bay on the north coast of NSW has been put in a seven-day zipper after a positive case of COVID and 84 close contacts were identified.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith said police were monitoring the Aquarius Backpackers in Byron Bay to make sure no guest was leaving the facility.

Police confirmed that they “assisted NSW Health at a hostel on Lawson Street in Byron Bay” and have referred further inquiries to NSW Health.

ABC has contacted NSW Health, but officials there have not yet provided further information about the operation underway at the backpackers.

The news of the positive case came as thousands of schoolchildren marched down the north coast to the traditional school parties.

Ms Smith says food and health care are being provided to the dozens of guests who are now locked up with the backpackers.

Mrs Smith wrote a statement on the situation on her verified Facebook page on Wednesday night.

“I am closely monitoring a situation in Byron Bay where a positive case of COVID-19 and 84 close contacts has been identified at Aquarius Backpackers in Byron Bay,” her statement read.

“Police are monitoring compliance 24/7 over the next seven days.

“My thoughts are with everyone in that situation as it will be a tough time and I will keep checking to make sure people are getting the support they need.”

Amateur photographers record a beautiful Byron Bay sunset.
Thousands of travelers flocked to Byron Bay for the annual school festivities. (Samantha Turnbull: ABC North Coast.)

Ms. Smith told ABC that everyone staying in the backpackers is probably fully vaccinated, though she remains concerned about the welfare of guests.

COVID sign Byron Bay, 2021
A sign at a COVID test center in Byron Bay earlier this year.(ABC News: Jen King)

Mrs Smith said any further spread of the infection would be “rather catastrophic” for the region. Byron Shire has one of the lowest vaccination rates in NSW, and companies are still recovering from two shutdowns in August and September this year.

“It’s school students at the moment and we have 16 flights a day to Byron Ballina gateway airport. Everyone has flocked to our region,” she said.

“We want to make sure that the situation is subdued and that people are safe and get the support they need.

“The real concern is the contacts of 85 people and how many people they have seen.

“If it’s starting to spread, then it’s very worrying for our small community if we go into a bigger lockdown because everyone’s starting to get back on their feet.”

People look out over Byron Bay at sunset.
Ballina MP Tamara Smith said any further spread of the virus would be “catastrophic” for the region. (Samantha Turnbull: ABC North Coast.)

The night manager at Aquarius Backpackers declined to provide any information.

“No comment,” he said, adding that he was not authorized by the owners to speak.

The hostel has dormitories and private rooms.

Guest facilities include a swimming pool, a restaurant and café and an outdoor bar.

The hostel is located on a busy Byron Bay street, a short walk from Main Beach.

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