• Staff Writers

Regional NSW mayors call for COVID-safe drug deals


Dubbo mayor Stephen Lawrence has sensationally called for a conversation about COVID-safe practices in the illicit drug trade including enabling QR code check-ins, blaming drug deals for the spread of COVID-19.


Lawrence told a Senate inquiry on Thursday that a drug dealer who visited Sydney brought the virus to the Dubbo major regional hub.

"The truth that virtually dare not speak its name is that the initial spread of COVID-19 and then the transmission thereafter in regional New South Wales was very largely the product of the illicit drug trade.”

The mayor - who served as a councillor in Dubbo’s Regional Council since 2017 before being elected Mayor earlier this year - said COVID-safe practices should have been encouraged in the illicit drug trade:

"A lot more could have been done in terms of recognising the actual drivers of transmission.”
"I don't know that anyone's talked about QR codes for drug dealers yet but they really should be.”
"To say that you wouldn't respond to social realities that are underlying transmission is a bit like saying you don't have safe injecting rooms or you don't promote safe sex because gay sex is illegal in a particular time."

Mayor Darriea Turley of Broken Hill backed up the Dubbo mayor's sentiments, telling the inquiry a big-picture national campaign, similar to HIV in the 1990s, should have been used to get information to drug users and dealers about coronavirus.

"I'll bet if you actually had a good peer support program they may have made another model of how they could have shared information with the contact tracers."