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Hunter community urged to remain COVID-safe

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NSW Health is urging Hunter residents to keep up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and practice COVID-safe behaviours this winter.

The plea comes as coronavirus transmission in the community remains high, according to the latest Respiratory Surveillance Report (RSR).

In the 24-hour state-wide reporting period to 4pm on Sunday 10 July, 7,586 positive tests were recorded, as well as 2,002 hospitalisations, with 63 people in ICU.

The RSR shows the overall proportion of affirmative COVID-19 PCR tests likely to be either Omicron BA.4 or BA.5 sub-lineages increased to 35% in the week ending 25 June, compared with 32% in the previous week.

Currently, the BA.2 sub-lineage remains the dominant variant of concern circulating in NSW, according to genomic sequencing of positive PCR tests in NSW.

However, it is expected BA.4 and BA.5 will become dominant in the coming weeks and are likely to be associated with an increase in COVID-19 infections.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said everyone needed to do all they could to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable members of the community.

“There is no evidence yet of a difference in disease severity for those infected with BA.4 and BA.5, but there is evidence that they are better at evading the body’s immunity,” she explained.

“Any potential increase in infections will depend on a combination of factors, including immunity levels in the population and behavioural factors, so it is vital that anyone who is eligible for a booster dose who hasn’t yet received it does so as soon as possible.

“We all have a role to play in reducing the spread and burden of respiratory infections this winter and protecting our most vulnerable.

“So, I strongly encourage everyone to keep doing the little things that make a big difference, such as staying home when you are sick, washing your hands regularly and indoor mask-wearing.”

Dr Chant said before you test positive to COVID-19 you should be aware if you would be eligible for antiviral medications.

“Have a conversation with your doctor and have a plan to manage winter respiratory illnesses,” she added.

“Antivirals work best when taken as soon as possible, usually within five days from when your symptoms start.”

Help reduce the risk to ourselves and others by:

  • Staying home if we’re unwell, taking a COVID-19 test straight away and self-isolating
  • Wearing a mask indoors or wherever we can’t physically distance
  • Getting together outdoors or in large, well-ventilated spaces with open doors and windows
  • Practising good hygiene by washing or sanitising our hands often
  • Taking a rapid antigen test to test for COVID-19 before visiting vulnerable loved ones or going to large gatherings and events
  • Staying up to date with vaccinations – for both flu and COVID-19

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