Surge in vaccinations after Gundgai exposure

Catherine Humphries from Wagga Wagga received the 10,000th vaccination in the MLHD. She received her Pfizer jab at the Wagga COVID Vaccination Clinic on Friday, June 11.

Murrumbidgee residents have been quick to get tested for Covid-19 and more likely to get vaccinated after a possible exposure was reported in Gundagai on May 19.

A Melbourne family passed through the town, stopping at four locations and later testing positive for Covid-19. The family didn’t report any symptoms until after they returned to Melbourne on May 25, but the incubation period means it’s likely they were infectious whilst travelling through NSW.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District Covid Coordinator Emma Field said more than 250 people were tested in Gundagai last week, with all returning a negative result.

A total of 900 tests were conducted throughout the Murrumbidgee’s clinics.

“We also saw a significant increase in vaccinations last week, when there were over 1700 vaccinations completed. That’s an increase of over 270 vaccinations from the previous week,” she said.

“We would like to remind people in the commif they are symptomatic to come forward and get tested even if they are the mildest of respiratory symptoms.”

Matt Lucas, co-owner of The Coffee Pedaler, just got his first Pfizer jab in Wagga on Friday. 

“I had already registered before [the potential Covid case in Gundagai],” he said, adding that he’s been interested in getting the vaccine, reasoning that the benefit to the community is worth the potential of having a negative reaction to the vaccine.

“There’s a reason why vaccines work and we don’t have polio and measles rampant in the community… There’s a very minute risk associated with a vaccine, and ultimately those risks are good for the community as a whole.”

The coffee shop owner said both his Tumut and Gundagai cafes suffered after the revelation that the Melbourne family had visited The Coffee Pedaler in Gundagai as part of their travels, even though the potential exposure wasn’t revealed for more than a week after their visit.

“We shut down for just one day, Thursday (June 3), and the street was a ghost town,” he said.

“It wasn’t just people avoiding The Coffee Pedaler, it was people avoiding Gundagai and unfortunately even the motels, caravan parks, the giftwares stores. They all experienced a massive decrease in trade, even though there was no community transmission.”

Mr Lucas said business has just started to rebound this week, but that may have been due to a cross country carnival being held in Gundagai.

“We’ll see how the weekend goes,” he said.

Despite the flood of negative test results, Mr Lucas said tourists have been slow to return to Gundagai, and visitors have seemed to be avoiding The Coffee Pedaler in Tumut simply because they share the same name and ownership. Mr Lucas said one of his Gundagai staff members who was working during the Melbourne family’s visit was a Tumut resident, but she doesn’t work at the Tumut cafe.

“None of the staff that were on that day and were [potentially] exposed… they’re not staff that go between the two sites,” he said, adding that business has been affected by the Melbourne lockdown and reduction in tourists.