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COVID tests won’t stop

Saturday, 19th December, 2020

By Emily Ferguson

Testing and screening for COVID-19 will be maintained during the Christmas and New Year holiday period by the Far West Local Health District with some changes to the existing operations.

FWLHD Chief Executive Umit Agis said the overall trend of testing numbers is that they are decreasing as the weeks go by and for the first time since COVID testing began the Far West’s total number of tests has dropped below 100. 

“In terms of the overall trend it is still downward, there’s still less people testing than we had, for example last week we had about 111 people getting tested and this week it’s gone down to 88.,” said Mr Agis. “For example we’ve only had 35 to 40 tests in Broken Hill alone and the rest are in outer lying areas and interstate as well, so that 88 really includes all the tests for the residents of the Far West LHD. 

“Menindee only had one, in Wilcannia we had two within the past week, Balranald only had three tests, Wentworth about five and Buronga about six and the areas I haven’t mentioned there has been no movement.

“I don’t think we’ve actually seen the numbers drop below a hundred so this is really a first, I’m fairly certain it’s dropped below a hundred for the first time since we’ve started testing,” he said. 

Mr Agis said this phenomena of low testing numbers is being observed right across the state, “It’s not unique to this LHD and obviously public health is putting out the consistent messaging of wanting to keep the testing numbers up until the vaccination is fully implemented,” he said. 

“As you know we’re expecting the vaccine to be made available somewhere around March, we’re hoping that it’s the middle of March but of course for the whole community to be vaccinated will take some time.

“I think perhaps because of the fact that Australia is contained as a whole the virus so well compared to our international counterparts perhaps there is a degree of complacency creeping in, and I think it is really important that if you’re having any symptoms at all, but if you’re not sure go and get tested, we will not turn anyone away, if you present for testing we’ll test you.” 

As of Friday, December 18 the drive thru clinic closed for the holiday period, it will resume operations from January 18, 2021 from a new location when it reopens. 

“We’re going to be relocating our drive thru from its current location at our Community Health centre carpark to the Hospital... so the Hospital will be able to provide drive thru and also the clinic so people will still have the choice of being able to do both,” said Mr Agis.

“Over the immediate Christmas period we will be closing the drive thru until the 18th of January and the reason for that is that the numbers have been quite low and we believe that we can manage the numbers that we’re seeing since the SA matter has been resolved, through our Thomas St clinic.”

“One of the reasons that we’ve moved the drive thru to Thomas Street is really because we appreciate that wearing the full PPE for our staff in the context of 40 degree heat and they have no protection is extremely challenging so as a responsible employer we need to be looking after our staff. What we can do at the hospital site is they’ll be able to protect themselves from the heat and still be able to provide the service.”

The Broken Hill Health Service clinic will be open 10am to 8pm, 7 days a week (Thomas Street entry) throughout the holiday period. And when the drive thru clinic reopens on January 18 it will operate at the same hours as previous, 9am til 11am. 

The other COVID-19 clinics in the Far West LHD will be operating:

Buronga Midway Drive Thru Clinic: Closing on 18th December 2020, until further notice. 

Wentworth Health Service: Tuesday to Thursday, 10am to 3pm excluding public holidays. After 4 January 2021, the clinic operating hours will revert back to five days a week (Monday to Friday) from 10am to 3pm.

Balranald Drive Thru Clinic: Monday to Friday, 1-4pm excluding public holidays. Testing will be conducted at the Balranald MPS Emergency Department outside of these hours.

Ivanhoe, Tibooburra, Wilcannia, White Cliffs and Menindee Health Services: No scheduled clinics. Testing available as required via facility Emergency Departments.

The Far West LHD urges everyone to maintain their vigilance against the COVID-19 virus during the holidays. The best protection against COVID-19 is to continuing to keep 1.5 metres apart, regularly wash your hands and wear a mask when unable to physically distance. 


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