New restrictions at Northern NSW hospitals as cluster grows
VISITORS from the Greater Sydney area and surrounding regions will no longer be able to enter hospitals and health facilities in Northern NSW Local Health District.
The decision by the health district comes as COVID numbers continue to spike after a cluster formed in the Northern Beaches region last week.
At present, the affected areas are the Greater Sydney area and the Central Coast LGA, Wollongong LGA, and Blue Mountains LGA.
Visiting hours and numbers are again being reduced to one visitor for one hour, once a day between the hours of 1pm - 6pm.
There are no changes to maternity services at this stage.
Additional restrictions also apply to residential aged care facilities located at the four Multi-Purpose Services in Nimbin, Kyogle, Urbenville and Bonalbo.
No visitors will be allowed at these facilities, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as for palliative care.
"These are difficult, but necessary decisions that we are taking for the safety of our patients and our health facilities," Northern NSW Local Health District Chief Executive Wayne Jones, said.
"We are in contact with the families and loved ones of residents in our facilities and will continue to monitor the situation closely in the lead up to Christmas."
To further reduce risk in all health settings, all health workers in hospitals and community health settings should wear a mask if within 1.5 metres of patients, and patients are also required to wear a mask where possible.
Visitors will continue to be required to wear masks, and health screening is still in place at all NNSWLHD facilities, as part of the measures to reduce any risk of transmission and keep patients safe.
Anyone entering a facility will have their temperature checked and be asked a series of questions to determine they are well and have not visited any COVID hot spots in the past 14 days.
Meanwhile, Mr Jones encouraged residents and visitors to Northern NSW to take strict COVID-safe precautions and keep up to date with the changing public health directions in response to the current outbreak.
"Anyone in NSW with even the mildest symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat or runny nose, is asked to come forward immediately for testing, then isolate until they receive a negative result," he said.
"For anyone visiting our region, don't skip getting tested for COVID-19 this festive season, just because you may be away from home. If you feel unwell, get tested immediately.
"Our health services are continuing to monitor the situation, and are involved in daily planning discussions around staffing levels over the Christmas period.
"This also includes staffing requirements to screen incoming travellers at the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, which has started today."
Mr Jones said there has been an uptake in testing since the Greater Sydney cluster was announced.
"Across the Northern NSW Local Health District we have seen a sharp rise in the number of people coming forward for testing over the last week, and in particular this weekend," he said.
"Over the last four days our hospital testing clinics conducted 1348 tests, on top of more than 1,100 tests done across the District in the week prior, ending December 16.
"Almost 50 per cent of the people presenting for testing in recent days in our hospital clinics have been residents from the Northern Beaches in Sydney, with the majority of these coming through our Lismore and Byron Bay testing clinics.
"Coming forward for testing is a key method for us continue to monitor and reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease in the community.
"Thank you to everyone, both residents and visitors, who has come forward for testing so far. Since the pandemic began, there have been more than 87,000 tests done across the District."
There are more than 300 COVID-19 testing locations across NSW. To find your nearest clinic visit www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19 or contact your GP.