Tamworth and Armidale are both the targets of a COVID-19 testing blitz as authorities try to determine the source of two infections.
Authorities are still investigating how a woman who died in Tamworth hospital last week contracted the virus. Dr David Durrheim, the public health controller for Hunter New England Health, revealed to 2TM how the clinics would function, and why they are needed. The question was how to make it easy for people to access without delays or long waits. The solution? A drive-through clinic based at Tamworth and Armidale hospital. "People should phone beforehand to make sure that they don't have to wait for too long," Dr Durrheim said. "Once they've phoned, they can then book an appointment, they can drive through, they can get swabbed in the car, they don't have to get out, and they should get their result generally within 48 hours. "As an SMS, if it's negative. If it's positive, then the public health unit will actually be calling them to talk to them about home isolation." The swab itself takes about a minute to complete to ensure the medical staff get the specimen, and generally, there'll be two nurses in attendance, but if the demand is higher, more staff would be provided. Dr Durrheim explained the nurse, who will be in full personal protective equipment, will apply the swab through the person's car window, and then they can drive on. He added that the service is free for all residents, and anyone can get tested but emphasised those with symptoms should be booking in.
Dr Durrheim has issued a challenge to Tamworth and Armidale to beat the blitz. "We know that with sports on hold at the moment, it's a good opportunity to channel some of that friendly competition between Tamworth and Armidale, and particularly for young people, we are hoping that they might make use of this as well," he said. "Let's see who does the best this coming week between Armidale and Tamworth." Dr Durrheim said that the testing clinics form part of the next stage in dealing with pandemic - hunting down the virus. "What we've seen in both Tamworth and Armidale in the past month is two people in each of the towns, where we were unable to find the source of their COVID-19 infection," he said. "And when that occurs we get concerned that we may be missing virus transmission in the community and so this testing blitz is really an opportunity to look really aggressively and find out whether we are missing any virus." "So the source of those infections has not been traced." Dr Durrheim said the clinics have run in other parts of the health district and have provided reassurance that there aren't cases they are missing. Something they are hoping to achieve in Tamworth and Armidale. "So wherever it is, we want to get on top of it, make sure that anybody who has the virus, that then their close contact are isolated," Dr Durrheim said. "But really also to prove that what we're seeing in the figures, which looks like we really flattened that curve, that that is genuine and that we aren't missing any cases in the community." Dr Durrheim said it might be that cases that in the coming months as measures are relaxed, there could be a slight resurgence in cases. "We'll jump on those as soon as we can and try and keep that curve nice and flat," he said. "And so this is not a sprint. This is definitely going to be a bit of a marathon, but we're prepared for that."
The Tamworth clinic will operate from 9am to 4pm from April 27 until May 3. People should call 1800 881 568 (during testing hours) to register before attending the clinic. The Armidale clinic will operate from 10am to 2pm from Monday until May 1. People should call 0427 923 080 (between 9am and 4:30pm on testing days) to register before attending the clinic.