Local News

Hunter New England Health District doing right things and getting tested for COVID-19

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The Hunter New England Health (HNEH) District has been doing the right thing and coming forward to get tested for COVID-19. 

Looking at the Upper Hunter in the last month at Singleton there have been 1,001 tests; 480 in Muswellbrook and 463 in the Upper Hunter Shire region. 

HNEH Public Health Physician Dr David Durrheim said on a whole the state is doing quite well, but the outbreaks over the holiday period have been a concern. 

"It seems as though we've brought the Northern Beaches cluster under control. The lock down clearly has helped and the restrictions around Christmas and New Year dampened things down but unfortunately we've seen that the cluster linked to the patient transport worker and the cluster that's linked to the Berala BWS is still popping up with surprises and mystery cases in Western Sydney and the links are not always clear," he said. 

"I think that we have to assume that even though the numbers are low which is wonderful and that reflects both the amazing contact tracing that is happening in NSW but also the fact that people are doing the right thing, coming forward and getting tested even with the mildest of symptoms, we haven't eliminated the virus again but we're getting to the point that maybe with a little bit of extra effort we can."

"All of us still need to do those things that really keep us safe," said Dr Durrheim.

"I'd strongly urge people to reconsider travel to Sydney at this stage until they've completely got on top of those local clusters down there and if one has to travel down to Sydney definitely wear a mask which is mandatory still down there. Even in our own areas if we can't keep that 1.5 metres distance a mask is still a very sensible idea, the frequent gelling of ones hands when touching surfaces someone else might have touched, that's really kept us safe."

"I think people are doing the right thing, I people know there is virus around and any dry throat or raspy throat or sniffly nose, a loss of taste or smell, any of those should trigger any one of us to go and get a test just to make sure we haven't been inadvertently affected," said Dr Durrheim. 

In Lake Macquarie over the last week there were more than 3,000 tests, in Newcastle 2,850 and in Maitland 1,300 tests  which is a huge increase compared to before Christmas.

"We were travelling at only about 350 tests a week in November to the week of 20th December but then with these local clusters there was a nice surge of testing in the Hunter Valley and we saw it jump up to 632 tests in the week before Christmas,"

"It dropped a little bit over New Year to just under 400 and then a nice pick up again in the last week."

Dr Durrheim said we all just need to keep doing the right things and continue to get tested if we think we need to.

"We know the Hunter Valley is very attractive to Sydneysiders and we see that on weekends, particularly over the holiday period we've had tens of thousands of visitors into the Valley which is great for local businesses but at the same time it does mean that possibly someone from a virus affected area may have visited and so this testing is totally appropriate and we really do congratulate people for coming and doing the right thing," he said. 

For a full list of testing clinics: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/clinics.aspx