24 March 2020

Visitors asked to stay away, health authorities dealing with coronavirus on the Coast

| Genevieve Jacobs
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COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 testing is increasing across the South East. Photo: wiki commons.

South Coast communities have been forced to issue a plea for visitors to stay away as coronavirus begins to make an impact on the battered region and health services gear up to deal with a rising curve of infections.

“2020 certainly has tested us and it appears the tests continue”, Eurobodalla mayor Liz Innes said this week, following the announcement that there are two confirmed cases in Bega and one in the Eurobodalla. Several more cases have been diagnosed across the South East, including in Bungendore, Goulburn and Queanbeyan.

“The call for visitors planning to come down here over Easter is please don’t. It’s a very difficult message but a very important one given that 30 per cent of our population is over 65”, Mayor Innes said. There are concerns that an outbreak of COVID-19 would seriously stretch the region’s healthcare resources.

Mayor Innes acknowledged the closure of pubs, clubs and gyms was “devastating” for the Coast’s visitor economy and would compound the economic hit for an already fragile hospitality sector. She recognised the burden being carried by the region’s health care and emergency workers, supermarkets and food providers during the crisis.

Director of medical services at the Bega Hospital, Dr Liz Mullins, said the region was now seeing an anticipated rise in diagnoses after COVID-19 testing facilities opened. But she warned that tests would still only be given to people who fit the criteria.

“There are people coming in who have had exposure or have been overseas”, Dr Mullins said. ” We don’t test people who are worried and who have minor symptoms. We only have a limited number of tests and if you screen everyone …. it increases the false positive rate. We are trying to target those who need tests”.

Dr Mullins said an upward curve in confirmed cases was to be expected and was the reason why social distancing is so important.

“When you sneeze, your sneeze goes a metre”, Dr Mullins said “If you’re 1.5 meres away and someone sneezes with COVID, it won’t get to you. Self-isolation is so germs won’t spin around in the air.

“If we have influenza or rhinovirus there’s some immunity in the community. Nobody in the world…. has immunity to COVID. There is no herd immunity, that’s why it’s frightening”.

But Dr Mullins said that while COVID-19 is more infectious than the flu, the disease is not as infectious as measles and chickenpox. “The normal precautions for cough and upper respiratory infections will protect you”, she said.

Health services and GPs across the South East are holding regular teleconferences during the crisis but Dr Mullins said that normal service for other health conditions will continue to be provided. “People will still have babies, get their chemo and have dialysis. 15-year-old boys will still come off skateboards and break their arms”, she said.

Access to the Bega Hospital is currently restricted to one visitor per patient at a time although some exceptions may be made depending on circumstances and entry points are being limited. Flu vaccinations will take place on the usual schedule and Dr Mullins said elective surgery may be phased out gradually depending on hospital resources.

You can check whether you should be concerned about your symptoms here.

All NSW COVID-19 testing centres are listed on the Health NSW website. In the South East, you can be tested at the following centres:

Eurobodalla Heal​th Service, 2 River Street, Moruya NSW 2537. 11 am – 3 pm, Monday-Friday
Call prior: 1800 999 880

(South East Regional Hospital) 4 Virginia Drive, Bega NSW 2550. 11 am – 2 pm, Monday-Friday
Call prior: 1800 999 880

Cooma Health Service, Sharp Street Surgery (Ochre Medical Centre), 184 Sharp Street, Cooma NSW 2630. 8:30 am – 5 pm, Monday-Friday
Call prior: 02 6455 0000

Goulburn Base Hospital, 130 Goldsmith Street, Goulburn NSW 2580. 1 pm – 5 pm, Monday-Friday
Call prior: 1800 999 880

Queanbeyan Hospital, 107 Collett Street, Queanbeyan NSW 2620. 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, Monday-Friday
Call prior: 1800 999 880

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Mark Whitbread9:02 am 25 Mar 20

Surely our local councils will need to force closure of ALL caravan parks,camping grounds, hotels, and any other accommodation to ensure people are not visiting the area
So please cancel your bookings and keep people in the shire safe

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