Wingecarribee COVID-19 case numbers have remained unchanged for the last 25 days, still sitting at 25.
There are also no recorded community transmission cases.
Meanwhile there were three new cases as of May 17 in NSW, of which one was community acquired.
There were 14 new cases in Australia, and 20 on May 16. Most of these were in Victoria.
Southern Highlands Division of General Practice spokesman Dr Vince Roche said that considering that NSW was one of the last states to relax the social avoidance/stay at home rules, it was worth noting that relaxation of these rules was likely to result in more spread if people were not careful.
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"It is definitely not time to relax - we need to keep vigilant and stick to safe practices," he said.
"This is a long way from over - if we get a second wave, it may be unstoppable.
Check out the fresh data from South West Sydney Local Health District (which includes the Wingecarribee) on May 15:
- 258 Confirmed cases
- 241 Recovered (93 per cent)
- Still in home isolation - 6
- Still hospitalised - 3
- Died - 4
- SWSLHD population - just under one million
Dr Roche said that in more good news local health care workers were seeing a significant reduction in the number of people with ordinary influenza and viral respiratory infections.
"This is due to your social distancing! Another good reason to keep it up," he said.
"The secret of our success is social distancing and hand washing - along with testing everyone with any respiratory symptoms.
"The rules for visiting other people at home relaxed a little from May 1 and again on May 15.
"Every time you leave the safety of your house, you have to imagine that you have COVID-19 disease - and you also have to imagine that everyone you see - whether at work, the coffee queue, or the supermarket - has the infection - and we need to behave as if we want to avoid passing on or catching the infection.
"Be extra careful when visiting vulnerable people.
"And we need to keep this going after school goes back, after football resumes, and the shops and restaurants start reopening.
"Please remember that the new relaxed rules do not intend for you to become a "Mixmaster" - ie visit one or two people - share viruses - visit a couple more - share viruses - visit someone else - share viruses etc.
"Please do not waste the pain of the last eight weeks!"
Dr Roche urged people to download the COVIDSafe app.
"The Division of General Practice would encourage all Wingecarribee residents - and indeed all Australians - to download the new Australian Government COVIDSafe app," he said.
"While the app does not prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, it will make a huge contribution to the early and swift tracing of contacts of newly diagnosed people.
"It is a valuable tool in pushing down the number of infected cases towards zero - and helping Australia to move back to a normal way of life.
Five million Australians have downloaded the app. We need to double or even triple that for the app to be really effective.
"Please download it today!"
And to drive home his safety messages Dr Roche quoted Deputy Chief Medical Officer:
"Last week, every state and territory began taking careful steps to ease some of the restrictions that have helped us suppress the spread of this virus. While this will see a return to some of the freedoms we have had to forfeit over the past eight weeks, I want to emphasise our responsibility to protect each other from COVID-19.
"This is no time for complacency. COVID-19 remains active in the community. Our new COVIDSafe ways of living and working, need to be underpinned by good hygiene and physical distancing - even when visiting friends and family in private homes. More than ever, it is important that people who experience any cold or flu-like symptoms, stay at home and call your practice to arrange a test. In recent weeks testing has increased, with almost a million tests carried out around the country, giving Australia one of the highest testing rates per head of population in the world.
"Vulnerable people are advised to continue to stay home, unless going to the shops or attending a medical appointment. A reminder, vulnerable people include:
- people over the age of 70 and older
- people over 65 and older with chronic medical problem
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 and over with a chronic condition
- people who are immunocompromised"
Dr Roche said all Registered Aged Care Facilities in the Highlands had carefully weighed up the risks and benefits to their residents and staff and had reviewed their previous policies where they had remained closed to all visitors - including families - with the exception of emergencies and palliative care patients.
"All these nursing homes have put measures in place to facilitate their residents talking with their families by phone, Skype, FaceTime etc to minimise the distress that isolation causes both residents and families," he said.
"GPs are doing as much as possible of their care by phone, fax, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, etc! Aged Care facilities are working closely with GPs and the Hospital to provide the most appropriate and timely care to residents - and to keep them away from the hospital and the Emergency Department with grave risks to elderly people in a possible COVID exposed environment.
"Each Aged Care Facility has communicated their new visitor policies to residents, families and GPs - as the pandemic picture slowly changes in Australia.
"I'm sure we are all aware of the terrible scenes in nursing homes overseas (as well as here in Penrith and Macquarie Park) - and understand the huge pressures on Nursing Homes to keep their residents and staff safe.
"Most local GPs are strongly supportive of the measures that our local Aged Care Facilities are taking - and interestingly, feedback from residents and their families are mostly strongly supportive of the protective measures taken by our Nursing Homes.
"It was wonderful to see the smiles on residents' and families' faces as I saw some of them meeting face to face for the first time in six weeks today!"
Keep up the Normal Care
Dr Roche said there was significant concern among doctors about the decrease in "normal care"- whether paediatrics, antenatal, conditions where patients truly need to be seen in the Emergency Department or in the case of GP care, people with chronic and complex illness (eg heart disease, lung disease, diabetes) - where anecdotally there has been a large reduction in people keeping their appointments and an increase in cancelled appointments.
"Normal Care needs to continue throughout the epidemic," he said.
"Some may be done by telehealth - but much will involve face-to-face appointments with doctors and midwives.
"Likewise, dentists are back at work this week and it is important to resume the maintenance work again."
Dr Roche said that some General Practices had adequate flu vaccines for 65+ age group and some might be waiting for their next delivery.
"Stocks are low due to high uptake," he said.
"This is also true of stocks of vaccines for the 5-64 year age group.
"There are plenty of vaccine for the childhood influenza vaccine (six months to less than five years).
"Flu vaccination is highly recommended as we still have the usual influenza bugs circulating - and people weakened by the flu are a sitting target for a severe dose of COVID-19.
"This is a good year to have one. But do not wait weeks or months - there are no advantages and real disadvantages in holding off.
"If you don't normally have a flu vaccine - this is the year to do it! And if your GP Clinic is out of vaccine - it is not their fault - please do not abuse the staff - the Public Health Unit gives it to the General Practices as soon as they get the vaccines from the manufacturers, and they will be restocked as soon as supplies are available."
The Bowral Hospital Flu Assessment Clinic Hours of Business
- Weekdays - 10am to 5.30pm
- Weekends - 10:30am to 3pm
- Phone Number - 4861 014
TheFlu Assessment Clinic continues to run smoothly.
Dr Roche said that people did not require a referral from their GP to attend the BDH Flu Assessment Clinic, but they preferred GP Clinics do the first line of triage.
"Screening criteria have changed," he said.
"As the epidemic progresses into the next phase - community transmission - GPs are being encouraged to test any members of the public with a fever or respiratory symptoms, and especially any Health Care or Aged Care workers with a fever or respiratory symptoms.'
The direct phone number for the flu clinic is 4861 0145 and enquiries will be answered during hours of operation only.
If you have respiratory symptoms or a fever or both - please get tested.
Even if you have seen your GP, you need to ring the Clinic on 4861 0145 to organise your time to come to the clinic.
Results are usually available in about 24 hours.
A Commonwealth-funded General Practice Respiratory Clinic is located in the lower level of Mittagong HealthCare Centre, 58 Bowral Road, Mittagong.
It is open 9am to 5pm seven days a week.
The clinics are designed to assess patients with mild-to-moderate respiratory symptoms including fever, sore throat, cough, tiredness and shortness of breath.
Regardless of whether COVID-19 testing is indicated, or a specimen is taken, the patient will receive clinical guidance about managing their respiratory symptoms through the clinic.
Patients must have an appointment before attending the clinic. Patients can make an appointment online via HotDoc and there will be no charge to the patient.
To set up an appointment, patients can also phone the clinic directly for triage, call HealthDirect or be referred by their GP.
Referring GPs will receive a copy of the pathology results.
All staff and visitors to the hospital are being screened for infection risk with a questionnaire and a temperature test as they enter the hospital.
Limit is one visitor per patients and the new restricted visiting hours are 10am-11am, and 4:30pm to 5:30pm.
The only entrance to the hospital for staff and visitors is via the Milton Park Front Door.
Dr Roche said there had been a limited reintroduction of some elective surgerysince April 27- with Category Two and some category Three patients - at both Bowral District Hospital and the Southern Highlands Private Hospital.
"If you are on a waiting list - the respective hospital will contact you if you are able to have your surgery," he said.
"We are currently achieving about 50 per cent of our usual surgical throughput at both hospitals.
"Why not more? There is still a relative shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) - eg gloves, face masks, gowns - and we cannot afford to run down our supply in case Covid gets worse.
"Likewise, we need to keep enough hospital beds empty to allow us to cope with a surge in Covid activity should it occur.
"We are not out of the woods yet!"