‘Real risk’ of second wave of virus if we don’t remain vigilant

The Covid-19 testing tent at Tumut Hospital.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District’s Chief Executive Jill Ludford warned on Wednesday about the “real risk of a second wave of transmission” of Covid-19 as social distancing restrictions begin to ease today (Friday).

The new relaxations permit outdoor gatherings of up to ten people, five people to visit homes, weddings to have up to 10 guests, funerals to have 20 mourners indoors and 30 outdoors, religious gatherings to have 10 worshippers, and outdoor equipment, parks and pools to reopen.

“It is quite comforting to know that some of the government regulations are starting to ease, but we remain with a very high risk of a second wave of Covid-19 across our region,” Mrs Ludford said.

“The virus is very, very contagious and it can get out of control in the community really, really rapidly.”

Despite fears of a second wave, Mrs Ludford has stressed to the community that there are three main things we can do to help stop this from happening.

“If we continue to undertake social distancing (staying 1.5m apart from others in public), wash our hands and get tested if we have symptoms, that will significantly reduce our risk of having a second wave of Covid-19 across the Murrumbidgee region,” she emphasised.

It wasn’t all serious on Wednesday, with Mrs Ludford announcing that the region was in its 26th day of no new cases (now at 27 as of Thursday).

This follows a high level of testing on Tuesday, which saw just under 200 tests completed across the region.

Of the 45 cases within the MLHD, only two remain active. Mrs Ludford said that recording a patient as recovered can sometimes take longer than just the normal ten days that is seen in the majority of cases.

“I want to reiterate that they (the two active cases) are out of self-isolation and they are free to move around the community,” she said, stating that they are “not contagious.”

The two active cases are located in Cootamundra-Gundagai and Narrandera Shire.

Mrs Ludford explained why regulations, such as self-isolating whilst waiting for Covid-19 test results to be returned, is still important.

“The reason why we still have the social distancing regulation requirement for testing is simple; Covid-19 is highly infectious early in the disease,” she said.

“When people first start to feel crook, that’s when they’re most contagious, and if they cough it’s spread by droplets, if they touch surfaces that’s how community transmission occurs.

“So that’s why keeping 1.5 metres from people at all times is important.

“With visitors, when you’re shopping, if you’re in a lift; at any time, apart from your family.”

Because Covid-19 is so contagious at the beginning of the virus, Mrs Ludford said it is important to stay home and not go to work if you are experiencing any symptoms, even mild.

“We’ve seen recent outbreaks across Victoria and New South Wales which have started with people early in their disease going to work.

“If you have any respiratory symptoms or you have joint pain or you have a loss of taste and smell and appetite, please stay home and please ring and organise to have a test.”

Testing is being highly encouraged as restrictions continue to relax, and to help with this, further testing options have been introduced on top of what is already available, such as the MLHD’s Mobile Testing Clinic.

The Clinic is in Lake Cargelligo and Murrin Bridge today (Friday), having previously visited Batlow and Tumbarumba on Monday, followed by Jerilderie on Tuesday, Holbrook and Mangoplah on Wednesday, and The Rock and Collingullie on Thursday. It will visit Berrigan tomorrow (Saturday).

The Clinic provides an additional service to the standard testing clinics. It does not replace any of the clinics, acting as a supplementary service.

District Manager of Virtual Care, Phil Major, said the Clinic has proved very popular in the smaller towns where testing opportunities are limited or not available for local people.

“We have been really impressed with the turn-out from the community, so we will continue to provide testing clinics where and when they are needed,” said Mr Major.

“We are working very closely with local Councils and responding to requests to try to provide a service where it is most needed, while maintaining the ability to respond quickly should we find Covid-19 hotspot.

“It’s important for the District to maintain the ability to be responsive to community needs and provide this service where people have limited access to testing clinics.”

Mrs Ludford said that the timetable for the Clinic will be available on the MLHD website every week.

Superintendent Bob Noble of the Riverina Police District also emphasised the need for vigilance as restrictions begin to relax.

“The purpose of these relaxations is to allow more mobility and greater amenity to people to move around the community and do the things they need to do,” he said.

“What they are not is a signal as a free-for-all just to re-engage in social and recreational activities.”

Superintendent Noble said their team has been receiving a lot of enquiries about whether activities such as fishing, hunting and motorbike riding will be allowed under the new relaxations.

“The answer to this in general terms [is] not at this stage,” he said, “but if we get it right with observing the directions such as they exist, even with relaxations, those things will come back…hopefully sooner rather than later.

“I just ask people to remain very disciplined in terms of their movements and their activity.

“We have been given an inch, let’s not take a mile.”