Test numbers double

THE numbers of COVID-19 infections have begun to creep up again in some areas of Gippsland, with three active cases each in Baw Baw and Bass Coast, one in South Gippsland, one in East Gippsland, bringing the total to seven on Sunday.

There were none in Wellington.

With COVID-19 case numbers soaring in Melbourne and lockdown restrictions coming into force in the metropolitan area and Mitchell Shire, people are being urged to remain vigilant and get tested if they have symptoms.

Gippsland’s six respiratory clinics, including the clinic set up at Inglis Street Medical Centre, Sale, have seen testing numbers double in June.

As of Monday morning, the Sale clinic had recorded no positive results.

More than 13,000 tests had been undertaken across Gippsland to date by Friday, with 6418 tests in June, compared to 2900 in May.

The June daily testing average of 257 was almost double the 132 tests in May, and increased testing has resulted in as many as 521 tests conducted in one day across the region.

The respiratory clinics have extended opening hours to meet the demand, with Warragul and Sale’s clinics opening additional assessment rooms and Warragul and Morwell opening on Saturday mornings, as well as on weekdays.

Gippsland Primary Health Network chief executive Amanda Proposch has praised the response from Gippslanders experiencing even the mildest of symptoms who have tested at the clinics.

Ms Proposch said while most of Gippsland was not included in the stage three “stay at home” restrictions that came into force across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire last week, communities could not afford to become complacent.

“We continue to ask Gippslanders to please get tested if you have even the mildest of symptoms,” she said.

“Stay at home until you can book a test and then you must stay at home until you get the results.

“Testing is important to identify any outbreaks; it is still very important to follow the government heath advice.

“We understand that some people may feel overwhelmed and anxious, particularly since the increased restrictions in Melbourne.

“I assure you there are many support services available to help, so please reach out.”

Ms Proposch said people could find information about mental health support via www.gphn.org.au/covid-19.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said Gippslanders needed to continue to play their role in helping Victoria overcome the surge in case numbers.

“We cannot become complacent and think the coronavirus is now only an issue for people back in lockdown in Melbourne,” Mr Chester said.

“We have seen how easily this virus can spread so it is still important to practise social distancing and good hygiene, stay home if you are unwell, and if you experience symptoms as mild as a runny nose, sore throat or dry cough please make sure you present for a coronavirus test at one of the clinics set up across Gippsland.

“These are easy, commonsense things we can all do to help monitor and control the spread of the coronavirus and keep our region safe.”

Dr Yousuf Ahmad from the Sale respiratory clinic has assessed more than 2000 people since it had opened, without any positive results.

“We have definitely seen an increase in testing since the outbreaks in Melbourne, going from about 30 assessments a day to 90,” he said.

“Because of this demand, we recently opened a fourth room.

“Even though Gippsland is not in lockdown, we need to be vigilant and practise physical distancing and hand hygiene.

“We need to keep our community safe.”

People in Wellington can book to have a COVID-19 test online through the Inglis Medical Centre website, or phone 5143 7900 and 5143 7981.

It is important to fill in the registration form before entering the Wellington Respiratory Clinic (located at the rear of Inglis Medical Centre).

To get booking details for all respiratory clinics, visit www.gphn.org.au/covid-19.

All six respiratory clinics are on a three-month contract with the federal Department of Health, with most notified their contracts have been extended until September 30, when they will be reviewed.