The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

COVID cases rising


An increase of COVID-19 transmissi­on has prompted a plea from the region’s health leaders to take steps to protect those at greatest risk of ‘severe consequenc­e’.

Hospitals across the state – including in the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians – have noted increased transmissi­on of the virus that plunged the world into periods of lockdown in recent years, and leaders have encouraged people to adhere to the prevention measures of those times: Wear a mask, complete a Rapid Antigen Test, and stay home if unwell.

While regional data is no longer available, as at Friday, a Victorian ‘surveillan­ce report’ showed 270 people were in hospital with COVID-19 across the state – the highest since mid-june, but less than the previous peak of Mayjune – and 109 people died due to the virus in the past 28 days.

Grampians Health chief strategy and regions officer Dr Rob Grenfell and the Grampians Public Health Unit said precaution­s were in place to protect patients, staff and visitors.

Dr Grenfell said people at risk of becoming ‘very sick’ might be eligible for antiviral medication, which they should take within five days of developing symptoms, and should consult their doctor.

“The best way to prevent those you love from getting infected is to protect yourself,” he said.

“It is also important to stay upto-date with your COVID-19 vaccinatio­n. If it has been six months since your last booster or COVID-19 infection, individual­s aged 18 and above should consider getting a booster dose to recharge their immunity. Booster doses are also available for at risk children aged between five and 17 years.”

Rural Northwest Health was managing two COVID-19 outbreaks – with 25 residents and 25 staff testing positive at its Warracknab­eal campus, and six residents and two staff testing positive at Hopetoun, as of Friday.

Executive manager clinical services, Joseph Bermudo, said the health service was working with the Public Health Unit to ensure ‘evidence-based recommenda­tions’ were in place – including staff wearing N95 masks while at work and completing a RAT prior to their shift.

Visitors are allowed in aged care facilities, providing they have a negative RAT result and wear an N95 mask.

Mr Bermudo said increased community transmissi­on was an expected factor of the ongoing evolution of COVID-19 as people’s immunity from infection and vaccinatio­n waned and the virus continued to circulate.

“If we continue to have staff testing positive for COVID-19 this may limit our current ability to provide the health services to the community. We are mitigating this risk by ensuring that we follow strict infection and prevention control measures,” he said.

“We’ve also managed to get some surge workforce to help us fill the gaps in our rosters.”

West Wimmera Health Service chief executive Ritchie Dodds said the health service noted an increase of cases, but had seen very few admissions unless patients had other, underlying health conditions.

He said prevention and infection control protocols including enhanced cleaning, social distancing and COVID-19 testing for residentia­l aged care visitors were in place.

“These measures have the added bonus of reducing the spread of another potentiall­y lethal infectious disease – influenza,” he said.

East Grampians Health Service acting director of clinical services, Bec Peters, said while the health service was aware of increased cases in the community, no services were impacted at this time.

She said the health service had a ‘very strong’ vaccinatio­n program for patients and aged care residents, and ‘good access’ to antivirals, and it was well-placed to enact transmissi­on-based precaution­s as required.

She said the latest COVID-19 wave comes in the wake of patients seeking treatment for influenza, RSV and other respirator­y illnesses.

“We have the ability to admit and treat people in hospital in a safe manner that avoids any further transmissi­on,” she said.

People wanting general informatio­n can go to au/health-alerts/increase-in-covid19-cases and can access a guide to recovery via coronaviru­ au/checklist-cases

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