EXCLUSIVE: Dr Kerry Chant has offered her resignation as NSW’s chief health officer this week soon after she appeared in front of a state parliament inquiry where she was muzzled by a disgraceful performance by Health Minister Brad Hazzard from releasing the official written advice NSW Health gave to Premier Gladys Berejiklian in mid-June when community transmission of the highly contagious Delta strain of Covid first appeared in Sydney. Serkan Ozturk reports.
Dr Kerry Chant has offered her resignation as NSW chief health officer this week after months of having to deal with Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her state government not properly listening to expert public health advice to contain the latest and most dangerous outbreak of Covid in Australia since the pandemic first arrived onto these shores 18 months ago.
Dr Chant’s offer of resignation came soon after appearing at a state parliament inquiry on Tuesday, August 10 where she was disgracefully muzzled by Health Minister Brad Hazzard from providing the official written advice NSW Health had given to Premier Gladys Berejiklian in mid-June regarding public health measures and movement restrictions to contain the community spread of the contagious Delta variant.
With the state facing a worsening Covid crisis, Dr Chant was nowhere to be seen today as Sydney and NSW recorded its “worst day” of the pandemic on Saturday, August 14 with almost 500 new infections, and four more deaths. A statewide lockdown of NSW will be instituted from this weekend for at least the next seven days.
Dr Chant has not made an appearance at the daily Covid update press conference since Wednesday, August 11.
Answering questions from the parliamentary committee led by Greens MP David Shoebridge, Dr Chant had earlier in the week sounded nervous and somewhat robotic and rehearsed.
She claimed the formal advice to lock down Sydney was provided in writing to the NSW crisis cabinet on June 25, on the same day stay-at-home orders were announced.
But when asked to publicly provide the written documents, Minister Hazzard butted in and bloviated to forcibly shut up the state’s top public health expert.
“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,” Hazzard said.
WATCH A NERVOUS DR KERRY CHANT BE MUZZLED BY THE NSW GOVERNMENT (ABC)
In an act of seeming political self-preservation and direct contradiction of Premier Berejiklian’s public claims that she has always relied on “health advice” to administer the government’s response to the pandemic, Hazzard then suggested the public health advice provided by Dr Chant and her team was also balanced by “implication … for the economy”.
“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,” Hazzard told the inquiry.
“[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.”
Hazzard then once again cut off Dr Chant and spoke over the top of her when the committee began to quiz her about whether she had provided advice to the government that it was safe to have most Year 12 students return to school on August 16.
Dr Chant managed to say that given the case numbers are so high at the moment she has advised it was “unsafe to have anything that increased movement and mobility”.
While Dr Chant was answering, Hazzard interrupted Dr Chant to criticise the committee and Shoebridge for “asking questions which you just aimed to have a go”.
It is widely believed public health experts advised the NSW Government that a lockdown restricting movement was necessary almost two weeks before it eventually began to be enacted from late June. Instead, Premier Berejiklian and her government’s big business sponsors were obsessed about keeping the economy “open” and ticking over.
Just a day before Sydney’s lockdown began to be enacted, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was still cheer leading like a buffoon about how Berejiklian’s government was “taking the right approach”by not locking down.
“I think the approach that she is taking is the right one. There are sensible restrictions that are being put in place and they are affecting people right across Sydney,” Morrison said on June 24.
“I think that encourages people, particularly in NSW, knowing that as soon as those restrictions are not necessary they will be lifted because that is what Gladys Berejiklian and her government have always sought to do during the course of this pandemic.”
Almost 7,500 people have now been infected in NSW with the highly dangerous and contagious Delta variant of the virus since the outbreak began on June 15, thanks to a limo driver who with the blessing of the state government was allowed to work without being vaccinated despite picking up and transporting possibly contagious airline crew arriving from overseas.
Make no mistake.
The Covid disaster which Sydney, NSW and Australia is facing at the moment is a result of extreme political failures by both Berejiklian and Morrison.
The prime minister for his government’s failure and incompetence in procuring enough vaccines and Berejiklian for her shocking failure to heed actual health advice from experts who had learnt their lessons from last year’s Ruby Princess ‘plague ship’ debacle. And both of them should be blamed for the woefully inadequate and all-too-late welfare and financial supports offered to individuals and small business.
The stress which Dr Chant has been under having to deal with members of this NSW Government has been clear for all to see for one month or more now.
As Covid case numbers began to rise, on July 9, Chant inadvertently and absentmindedly used her mask to wipe her eye while speaking to media at the daily Covid update press conference.
Dr Kerry Chant breaks her glasses on July 11 as new Covid infections rise in NSW and the nightmare scenario she envisioned begins to take hold after the NSW Government didn’t listen to expert public health advice (Image: Twitter / Supplied)
A couple days later, on July 11, as the state recorded 44 new infections, Dr Chant then broke her glasses. Again in front of the cameras and assembled media.
This was a person under immense pressure.
A person who must have felt that the nightmare scenario public health experts had warned about was occurring right in front of her eyes as the cameras rolled.
True Crime News Weekly sent questions to NSW Health as well as the Health Minister’s office providing opportunity to comment for this story and to either confirm or deny reports of Dr Chant’s offer of resignation.
We did not receive a response.