MLHD encourages caution as amenities re-open

Hotels, cafes and restaurants can now seat up to 50 people as of June 1, while strictly adhering to Covid-19 regulations.

Jill Ludford, Chief Executive of the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD), provided another Covid-19 update on Tuesday morning, stating that the “good news continues” for those in the community.

Only one active case of Covid-19 remains in the district, with the asymptomatic patient located in the Cootamundra-Gundagai LGA. Additionally, over 10,000 tests have now been completed, with testing numbers continuing to rise each week.

Ms Ludford credits this to the range of testing options available, including the mobile testing clinic, GP testing options, roadside testing clinics and more.

“It gives people a range of options about where they feel safe to go,” she said, reminding the community that they may need to be tested more than once if they develop symptoms a second time.

“Testing is not a sign of immunity, it’s just a sign that you don’t have Covid-19 at that point in time,” she said.

“It is winter time, so we’re going to get sick on and off during this period.

“There was six new cases in New South Wales yesterday (Monday), so we’re not out of the woods yet.”

As restrictions continue to relax and more venues are given permission to re-open, businesses are having to enforce new regulations such as social distancing, increased hygiene and record keeping for contact tracing purposes.

“I’m so proud of businesses across our region; their CovidSafety work plans are spot on,” Ms Ludford said.

“Thank-you to the businesses, we really appreciate that.

“Physical distancing is what’s going to keep us healthy now.”

Ms Ludford said that she is happy to see venues re-opening, especially because of the benefit this will have on people’s mental health.

“We’ve seen some people use home isolation as a real catalyst to do a whole range of things [such as] reaching out to other people, music and baking and a whole lot of things, but there are some people that are not travelling so well,” she said.

“They’re the people that I really want to ensure that the health system can care for and provide additional support.”

She said that the MLHD’s health workers, counsellors and the Primary Health Network are continuing to look for new ways to connect with people, through avenues such as social media and Telehealth. She also said they are increasing efforts to follow up with those who have experienced mental health episodes as a result of isolation.

“Mental health’s important, and once they actually leave our care or they go back home, we’re making sure that we follow them up really really strongly,” she said.

She encourages those who are struggling to take advantage of resources available through Lifeline and Beyond Blue.

Riverina Police District Superintendent Bob Noble said that while the easing of restrictions isn’t “a green light, it’s more like an amber light [and] we should proceed with caution,” he is also glad to see venues re-opening. He encourages the community to “be patient” with staff members as they work to implement Covid-safe procedures.

“I think most of us would agree the opening of pubs, clubs and restaurants for dining is a good thing and for socialising generally, it allows us to socialise and get together and support one another in a more traditional and satisfactory way,” he said.

“The police will be working with these various enterprises…to try and make it as easy as possible for them to be open, generate some income, some wages for their staff and provide a valuable amenity for the community.”

The police will be enforcing the social distancing, cleaning and record keeping guidelines at these venues as they continue opening.

“We’re gonna try and do it with a focus on compliance, and on safety, and on health, rather than enforcement for enforcement’s sake,” he said.

“We will of course exercise discretion where it’s appropriate to do so.”

Superintendent Noble wants to remind the community that although restrictions are lifting, there are still some social distancing regulations that remain in place. This includes no more than ten people gathering in a public place unless they’re members of the same family, and only five people visiting another household at the same time.

Moving forward, Ms Ludford said the health district’s biggest focus is on preparing to respond “quickly and assertively” to a hotspot outbreak if it was to occur.

“We’ve talked in the past about possibilities of outbreaks happening in a certain part of the community and our ability to go in there whether it’s a vulnerable part of the population, whether it’s an abattoir as we’ve seen in other states, [or an] aged care facility,” she said.

Preparing for a hotspot outbreak involves high rates of testing, and increased staff preparation through scenario testing, which the MLHD has continued to do throughout the pandemic.

Ms Ludford also said that while elective surgery is resuming and ramping up, the extended intensive care capability will remain as a precaution, as well as the availability of extra staff and equipment.

“We need to hang in there; we’re all in this [together] and we’re going to come out really well [on] the other side,” she said.