Australian Health Services Research Institute director Professor Kathy Eager has warned that Wollongong being part of Greater Sydney makes it a "sitting duck to COVID-19".
The University of Wollongong professor's warning follows hot on the heels of new statistics showing that more Shellharbour residents work in Wollongong than their own city.
The South Coast Labor Council analysis of employment showed some 43 per cent of Shellharbour residents actually work in the Wollongong LGA. Only 35 per cent of Shellharbour residents work in their own LGA.
Just over 65 per cent of Wollongong residents worked in their own city, while about 22 per cent of Wollongong people worked in Greater Sydney.
Professpr Eager said this revealed why the separation of Shellharbour and Wollongong LGAs in the latest NSW Government health orders was not only ill-conceived and illogical but also increases the risks.
She added it was also potentially disastrous given the relatively free flow of people from Greater Sydney to the Illawarra.
"Firstly, you can't divide the Illawarra from a health perspective," Prof Eager said.
"Shellharbour Hospital doesn't have maternity, Shellharbour mothers have to go to Wollongong to have their baby. Shellharbour residents also need to go to Wollongong to go to the mass vaccination centre."
Prof Eager added looking at the issue more broadly, more Shellharbour residents went to work in Wollongong every day then working in Shellharbour.
"The idea that you put a big boundary between Wollongong and Shellharbour is just crazy.
"What we do need is a ring of steel around Sydney and we need Wollongong to be outside that ring rather than in it because we are sitting here like sitting ducks," she said.
"We've got really good COVID control in the Illawarra and we want to keep it that way.
"We need to actually create an Illawarra region and we need to manage our COVID risks within the region rather than sitting here waiting for an influx of cases from Sydney.
"It is an integrated health service. We can not manage the risks of COVID from a health perspective unless we actually treat it as the Illawarra region, which is what we are.'
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