Hunter New England Health is calling on Cessnock locals to increase testing rates during a seven day COVID-19 testing blitz, starting this week.
A specialised COVID-19 clinic is being set up at Cessnock Hospital to assist with boosting testing numbers in the community. Testing starts on Wednesday.
Public Health Physician Dr David Durrheim said although there have been very few cases in Hunter New England recently with restrictions lifting, the blitz will assist efforts to identify any COVID-19 virus still circulating in the community.
"There were a cluster of COVID-19 cases identified in Cessnock during the virus peak, which makes it even more important to hunt the virus down and ensure there is no ongoing risk to the community," Dr Durrheim said.
"We don't expect to find large numbers of cases - or indeed many at all - but testing is the only way we will know for sure.
Anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough or shortness of breath, is urged to get tested. Even those with mild symptoms such as fatigue, new muscle aches or pains, a change in taste or smell or a new runny nose are encouraged to arrange testing."
The drive-through clinic will operate 10am to 6pm from Wednesday until Tuesday, May 26.
Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr, who has been pushing for a Cessnock clinic, was delighted with the news.
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"I welcome the decision by HNEH to offer COVID testing at a local site that residents can easily access," he said. "For the past 4-5 weeks there has been an expectation that people from the Cessnock LGA would take several hours out their day and drive to a testing site more than 30 kilometres away, which resulted in very few Cessnock residents being tested at all.
"While at this stage it is proposed that the testing site will only operate for seven days, the reality is that we are now living with COVID for at least the next 12 months or more, so a longer term solution in every community is required. The coming flu season will require people to find out if their symptoms are the dangerous COVID virus or a more common form of flu.
"I have been working on getting local access to COVID testing for several weeks now, and I strongly urge anyone with strange flu like symptoms to take this chance and get tested.
"There have been plenty of examples of people testing positive to the COVID virus despite having little or no symptoms and in many ways these people, those not taking precautions because they don't feel sick, are the biggest worry as we head toward a possible second wave."
Bookings are essential, and people should call 49910436 to register before attending. The clinic is available for a limited time but may be extended depending on demand.
Dr Durrheim has also asked that anyone who has symptoms to isolate at home until they have received further advice from their GP or the hospital.
With the large number of people being tested across the District it can take up to 72 hours to receive results, so we urge people patient while they wait.