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Calls for more testing in Sydney’s South West

Jodi McKay visits the pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic outside the Crossroads Hotel in Casula. Photo: Supplied

By ALLISON HORE

Leader of NSW Labor, Jodi McKay, is urging the government to immediately establish additional pop-up testing clinics in South West Sydney as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases related to the Crossroads Hotel in Casula continues to rise. 

“The government needs to establish more pop up testing clinics, it’s clear that it needs to be as easy as possible and having people wait 4-5 hours in line is not good enough,” Ms. McKay told reporters at a press conference outside the hotel.

“We have an enemy on our doorstep and we must be able to respond to that.” 

A 30-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man who visited the Crossroads Hotel in Casula on Friday the 3rd of July tested positive for the virus. Over the weekend three members of the man’s household in the Blue Mountains also tested positive.

As of Monday there were 3,303 confirmed COVID-19 in NSW, with 13 cases linked to the Crossroads. Five of the eight confirmed cases announced on Monday were people who had visited the hotel, including one 18-year-old staff member and four patrons. The remaining three were close contacts to people who had attended the venue.

In response to the initial hotel cases, NSW Health set up a pop up testing clinic outside the Crossroads Hotel. Around 1200 people were at the clinic over the weekend, including Labor MP for Macquarie Fields, Anoulack Chanthivong, who dined at the hotel on Monday the 6th of July. He is now in self-isolation.

But Ms. McKay thinks “a single overwhelmed pop up clinic in the carpark at the site of the outbreak” isn’t enough to deal with the potential scale of the spread in Casula. On Monday there was reportedly a five-hour wait for testing at the pop-up clinic.

“We need an all-out assault on what is a deadly enemy in Sydney’s South West. That means a major expansion of testing. The queues around the Crossroads Hotel today have been enormous,” she said.

“We know one of the biggest obstacles to increasing tests is convenience. That’s why the NSW Government must expand the hours of this pop-up clinic, and open more pop-ups in the area.”

Rates of testing in Sydney’s South West remain low compared to other localities in the city. The most recent data from NSW Health shows that there are only 40 tests per thousand people in South West Sydney, while there are 52 tests per thousand people being performed in Sydney’s CBD and Eastern Suburbs.

Dr Kerry Chant, NSW chief health officer, says that the patient zero in the Casula coronavirus cluster remains unknown. 

“We do not think the staff member was the source,” she said in a press conference on Sunday.

Anyone who visited the Crossroads Hotel in Casula is being instructed to self-isolate for 14 days from their last visit, regardless of the result of their test.

“Even if you get a negative test, that does not mean you are out of the woods,” Ms. Chant said.

“A negative result does not mean you can breach self-isolation.”

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