WITH almost 400 exposure sites around the state now identified, Western District Health Service has ramped up its preparations in the event COVID-19 found its way to the region.
WDHS chief executive, Rohan Fitzgerald said his team had been working hard over the past few weeks to ensure the Southern Grampians would be best equipped to deal with a possible outbreak within the region.
So far the south-west has been spared from the spread of the virus following the latest outbreak, which was brought to the state from Sydney and led to the introduction of a statewide lockdown.
Mr Fitzgerald said WDHS was prepared to cope with the potential of cases in the south-west.
“WDHS is continuing to adapt its services to meet the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and while the demand exists, we will extend our drive-through opening hours to Sunday,” he said.
“We’ve also been working behind the scenes to establish a testing surge clinic at the (Hamilton) Showgrounds, in the event we have a positive case in our region.
“Last year we put in place a contingency to respond to higher numbers of people needing tests and we have ramped up our planning in recent days to ensure we can stand up a high-capacity testing clinic at very short notice.”
With many returned travellers isolating to the region, and the Delta variant of the virus spreading fast, Mr Fitzgerald applauded locals on their attitude to the lockdown.
People with the slightest of symptoms have continued to come forward to the WDHS’ drive-through clinic and received their tests, with more than 300 people swabbed.
Of the people tested over the past week, one third were symptomatic and Mr Fitzgerald encouraged the community to continue getting tested at the first sign of symptoms.
“It’s great to see local residents taking the Delta variant seriously,” he said.
“We’ve had dozens of cars lined up each day before the clinic even opens.
“The drive-through team have been critical to our COVID-19 response and in recent days they’ve worked many hours out in the elements to ensure that everyone who turns up, gets their test.
“I can’t thank them enough for their efforts.”
The latest swabs at WDHS saw the total number of local tests climb above 7000 since the drive-through clinic was established in March 2020.
Mr Fitzgerald said many of the tests had been asymptomatic returned travellers from Queensland and New South Wales, as well as people getting tested due to South Australian border restrictions.
He said there were also several people getting their day 13 test so they could leave isolation after visiting an exposure site before lockdown began.
The demand for COVID-19 vaccinations continues and this coming week will see a further 360 Pfizer and 360 AstraZeneca jabs available at WDHS.
Since February WDHS has vaccinated 4412 people while a further 2272 had been by local GP clinics.
Locals are also receiving their second vaccination doses with WDHS administrating 2039 second doses in recent months.
There are positive signs Victoria was on track to see lockdown restrictions lifted next week, as Friday’s locally acquired cases dropped under 20.
A further 14 locally acquired cases were reported on Friday, taking the number of active cases across Victoria to 158.
Ten of the cases were already in quarantine and had been throughout their entire infectious period.
Five cases were in hospital with only two in intensive care.
More than 43,500 Victorians were tested on Thursday.
Victoria remains in a hard lockdown with only five reasons to leave your home, which is expected to last until Tuesday night.