Vicki Cheney and David Cheney working to test patients at the drive-in Covid-19 community testing site in Bellingen on in April.
Vicki Cheney and David Cheney working to test patients at the drive-in Covid-19 community testing site in Bellingen on in April.

C’mon Coffs – don’t drop the ball on coronavirus

DOCTORS warn there is significant potential for new cases of coronavirus to present in regional and rural areas in the coming weeks.

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia has urged regional Australians not to drop the ball on COVID-19 and continue to maintain measures which help suppress the virus.

While most of the infections rise in metropolitan areas, the RDAA, together with the Australian College of Remote Medicine, insist there is significant potential for new cases to present in regional and rural areas in the coming weeks.

"With the recent reopening of some state borders, increased school holiday travel - particularly to holiday towns - and ongoing freight operations between states and into regional areas, it is reasonable to assume coronavirus could spread into more rural communities in the weeks ahead," clinical lead for the RDAA COVID-19 response Dr Adam Coltzau said.

"We have also seen this week that some people who visited the Crossroads Hotel at Casula, have now presented for testing in Queensland - so clearly there is potential for the virus to quickly move long distances as people do."

COVID-19 testing at the Crossroads Hotel in Casula. Cases that originated in the pub have now blown out to 40 people, including a child and an elderly man in his 80s. Picture: Jonathan Ng
COVID-19 testing at the Crossroads Hotel in Casula. Cases that originated in the pub have now blown out to 40 people, including a child and an elderly man in his 80s. Picture: Jonathan Ng

In the lead up to the school holidays, booking numbers pointed to an increase in visitors to the region, a boon for the beleaguered tourism industry which had been forced to contend with border closures and lockdowns.

However, with a growing number of visitors came an increased chance of the virus spreading across regions, something which Dr Coltzau said could already be happening.

He said it still critical people in regional Australia continued to maintain social distancing of at least 1.5 metres, regularly wash their hands, cover their mouth and nose if they cough or sneeze, and self-isolate and get tested if they are showing any cold or flu symptoms.

"It is incredibly important that we don't drop the ball on COVID-19, and lose all of the progress we have made over the past six months" he said.

"We must continue to act as though there is coronavirus circulating in our rural communities - because, in all reality, it very well may be."

MId North Coast LHD COVID-19 tests conducted at 8pm July 12, 2020.
MId North Coast LHD COVID-19 tests conducted at 8pm July 12, 2020.

The region has now gone 79 days without a coronavirus transmission and the North Coast Public Health Unit has been working maintain that good result by urging businesses to ensure they had their COVID-19 safety plans in place.

NSW Health and other government agencies has been visiting premises to assist business operators with developing and implementing their plans to comply with the Public Health Orders.

Some businesses, such as pubs, clubs and small bars, must complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan under the public health orders, but business operators can also voluntarily complete one.

NCPHU Director Paul Corben said the NSW Government recommends all businesses use their own COVID-19 Safety Plan to protect staff, customers and visitors on their premises.

"We applaud those operators who have their plans in place. Our public health staff can help other businesses develop their plans, ensuring their premises comply with public health requirements and are safe for staff and customers," he said.

"To prevent a second wave of COVID-19 across the Mid North Coast we need everyone to play their part in preventing further transmission of the virus in our region.

"When you're completing your plan, consult with your staff, and share the plan with them when it's done."

For more information on COVID-19 Safety Plans visit nsw.gov.au/covid-19/covid-safe-businesses.



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