Concern as regional NSW testing rates fall

·3-min read

People are getting testing for COVID-19 at half the rate they were a week ago in western NSW, causing authorities to worry about unidentified chains of transmission.

Some 4800 people were tested for the virus in the state's Western Local Health District in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday.

That's less than half the numbers tested about a week ago.

The district recorded 23 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday. At least seven were infectious in the community.

"Yet again, we're still seeing too many people out in the community with symptoms, knowing they've got symptoms, and haven't been tested," said health district chief executive Scott McLachlan.

Authorities want testing for the district back at around the 10,000 per day mark.

Western NSW Police Commander Geoff McKechnie says officers are coming into contact with people who are "obviously sick".

"When we take them to the hospital they test positive for COVID. They're not coming forward and taking a test," he said.

Eighteen of the new cases were in Dubbo, the western NSW town dubbed the "heart and centre" of the virus by Deputy Premier John Barilaro on Thursday.

More than 500 people have tested positive in the town.

Elsewhere in the district, four people in Orange and one in Brewarrina tested positive.

More than two-thirds of cases in the region are in the Indigenous community.

Authorities have established the virus was introduced to Dubbo by a couple that returned to the region from western Sydney more than four weeks ago, Mr McLachlan said.

In the far west, there were five new cases - four in Wilcannia and one in Broken Hill.

Some 81 people in the small, largely Indigenous town of Wilcannia have tested positive for the virus.

The NSW government is sending 30 mobile homes to the far west town to help people isolate.

But the effort is "too little, too late", federal Labor MP Linda Burney says.

"Wilcannia has been crying out for the capacity to isolate for a very long time now," the federal opposition's Indigenous affairs spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Australian Medical Assistance Teams are offering vaccinations to people living in isolated homes in addition to the hubs run by Defence, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, as well as Indigenous health services.

AUSMAT teams are going house to house, knocking on doors to talk to Indigenous people about vaccines, the man leading their efforts, Tarun Weeramanthri, told ABC TV.

"We can offer the vaccine right where people are and so that takes away any notion that it is hard to get, but also allows us to have a frank and honest conversation with people about any hesitancy they may have," he said.

Mr Barilaro has flagged the possibility Sydneysiders wanting to travel to the regions once the state opens up might need to be double-vaccinated.

"We will be looking at the data to make sure we protect those vulnerable communities, our regional and rural communities," he said on Thursday .

"But why wouldn't it be a double vaccination requirement?"

There are also concerns about the Illawarra region, where numbers are rising with 22 new cases.

Seven new cases in the Central Coast region have also caused concern.

Of the record 1288 locally-acquired cases reported for thee state, 82 were in the Nepean Blue Mountains region and four were in the Hunter New England region.

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