NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard refuses to make Kerry Chant's COVID-19 advice public

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard refuses to make Kerry Chant's COVID-19 advice public

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has refused to publicly release documents detailing the COVID-19 advice chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant provided about locking down Greater Sydney.

During a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday, a fiery Mr Hazzard butted heads with committee members as he and Dr Chant were questioned over the management of the state's growing COVID-19 outbreak.

The committee, made up of Opposition and Greens MPs, asked Dr Chant to provide the precise date she first gave Mr Hazzard advice about locking down Greater Sydney.

Dr Chant said the formal advice to lock down the region was provided in writing to the NSW crisis cabinet on June 25, the same day stay-at-home orders were announced.

But when asked to publicly provide the documents the Health Minister strongly shut down the request.

"I'll answer that because obviously those issues go to crisis cabinet, which is a subcommittee of cabinet. But Dr Chant is under oath, and she's giving you the evidence, which is quite clear, so she won't be providing any documents," Mr Hazzard said.

On June 25, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a two-week lockdown of Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast and Wollongong.

Dr Chant conceded a party at West Hoxton in Western Sydney — described by the Premier as a "super spreader" event — was the catalyst for the decision.

The party was attended by a man linked to the Bondi cluster, 27 of the attendees became infected and passed it on to their contacts. The cluster now stands at 45.

"It was unknown at the time that there wasn't containment of the West Hoxton Park party ... there is concern that there was leakage at that point that was not recognised at the time," Dr Chant said.

"The outbreak was actually brought under control in south-eastern Sydney ... when it got introduced into south-western Sydney [and] that's when we saw the main case numbers. And I think to be fair, it needed a different response in south-western Sydney.

"With the benefit of hindsight, there were different decisions that could be made."

The Premier has continuously reiterated that the NSW government acted on "health advice" provided by Dr Chant and her team but Mr Hazzard's answers on Tuesday seemed to contradict that.

"I think it's fair to say that what happens in the crisis cabinet is a really healthy discussion, because Dr Chant actually presents epidemiological advice and then there has to be discussions," he said.

"[I] actually do what a minister should do and that is to obviously listen to the advice, challenge all the underpinning aspects of whatever is being asked to be done, if it has implications for mental health, for the economy, for all of those other things."

Dr Chant was asked whether she gave advice to the government that it was safe to have most Year 12 students return to school on August 16.

She said given the case numbers were so high she advised it was "unsafe to have anything that increased movement and mobility".

But she said a range of strategies were put in place to balance COVID risks with the welfare of HSC students. 

However Year 12 students cannot return to school from this Friday if they live in the eight local government areas (LGAs) of concern (Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta and parts of Penrith).

Mr Hazzard interrupted Dr Chant to criticise the committee chair, Greens MP David Shoebridge, for "asking questions which you just aimed to have a go".

The Premier has flagged some easing of lockdown restrictions if the state reaches six million vaccinations by the end of August, which would mean around 50 per cent of the state's adult population would be inoculated.

When questioned about this Dr Chant said she was confident that target could be exceeded.

"I'm actually optimistic that at the end of August, we're going to have a higher than 50 per cent first dose coverage," she said.