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Adam Marshall’s weekly COVID-19 report as at Thursday, April 30

It has been an incredibly positive week on the COVID-19 front for the Northern Tablelands, with NO new confirmed cases in the last seven days and six people declared recovered so far.

There are still four current coronavirus cases in the region – two in Armidale, one in Inverell and another in Moree, although that person has been in Tamworth Hospital since testing positive.

These figures are pleasing because, despite a considerable testing blitz which is underway at Armidale Hospital, there have been no new cases of infection identified.

The convenient drive-through testing clinic which has been operating at Armidale Hospital since Monday has been a huge success in terms of increasing the level of screening locally, with now almost 300 people tested Since Monday.

In response to the high level of demand, Hunter New England Health (HNEH) is extending the drive through testing service for another week ‪from Monday, 4 May until Friday, 8 May.

The clinic’s operating hours have also been increased to ‪between 9am and 4pm, with the additional three hours of testing giving clinicians the ability to test up to 80 people in a day.

Based on the rate of testing I am hopeful around 450 people will have been seen to by the end of the first week.

Appointments for this week are now fully booked but people can still contact the number to secure a test for next week. If you are exhibiting cold or flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough or shortness of breath I urge you to call ‪0427 923 080 and book an appointment to be tested.

Due to the high phone traffic I know there has been frustration in the community with people unable to get through to speak to an operator to book an appointment. I spoke to HNEH about this issue and I am pleased to say a second phone line has also been set up to deal with the huge number of calls coming through.

Personally, I would like to see this drive-through service extended to other areas across our region and I will be making representations to that effect to HNEH.

The increased level of localised testing is having an impact in lifting the overall State figures.

On Wednesday more than 7387 people were tested for coronavirus, with only two new cases detected. This week the Premier indicated a daily average of between 7000 and 8000 tests is what is needed for us to manage and monitor the spread of this deadly illness.

Obviously, the other big news is from Friday, May 1, COVID-19 travel restrictions will start to be eased in relation to visiting family and friends. Two adults and their dependent children will be able to travel anywhere in the State to visit another household (grandparents, family friends etc) however you will still have to follow social distancing measures and maintain good hygiene.

The aim of easing these restrictions is to allow people to provide emotional support to those who may have been socially isolated for an extended period. If you need to travel a great distance to visit a household, you can stay overnight – but this is not an excuse to go away for a holiday.

The Government will monitor how this change affects the transmission rate and spread of the illness over the coming weeks and will use that information to inform future easing of restrictions.

You might remember the State Government announced 21 free short TAFE NSW courses which people could enrol in to upskill while in self isolation. Because more than 85,000 people have accessed these courses the State Government has announced a further 13 courses, which will replace 13 on the list that are at capacity enrolments.

The new courses cover areas such as leadership, digital security, improving digital literacy, brand presentation and managing risk. More information, including a full list of courses, is available at https://www.tafensw.edu.au/ or by calling 131 601.

Until next time stay safe and stay home.

Adam