Young could join Yass in COVID-19 lockdown

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The regional NSW town of Young could soon join nearby Yass in lockdown, after fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19 were detected in wastewater.

Three days after restrictions were eased for residents, the Yass Valley Council area is back in lockdown for at least two weeks following a positive COVID-19 case.

Fragments of the virus were detected in the LGA in the Southern Tablelands over the weekend, and NSW Health confirmed a positive case and an update to the health directions late on Monday.

Health authorities are now concerned about Young, about an hour’s drive away in the southwest slopes, after it also returned a positive wastewater result.

“There’s been no cases reported in Young, so I would just be urging everybody in that community, or who has been in that community, to come forward for testing with even the mildest of symptoms, so if there are cases there in the community, we can identify those quickly,” NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty said on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in regional NSW, there are almost 1000 cases of COVID-19 in the state’s west, with elders and health leaders saying the NSW government failed to adequately consult and co-ordinate with Indigenous medical services to help protect communities in the area.

Some 13 new locally acquired cases in the state’s west had brought the total there to 991.

One person also tested positive to the virus in Lightning Ridge on Monday, but the infection has been determined a false positive.

Five new cases – four in Wilcannia and one in Broken Hill – in the state’s far west bring the total there to 167.

The town of Walgett in the state’s northwest is causing worry for health officials, with another three cases detected in the local government area on Monday.

Walgett is one of the most socially disadvantaged areas in the state, with the Indigenous community making up 30 per cent of its population.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry on Monday was told there had yet to be a meeting between state health authorities and Aboriginal community services to discuss the public health response in the area and restrictions.

Three Indigenous people in western NSW have died from the virus during the current outbreak, which began on June 16, the first such deaths since the pandemic began last year.

However, the outbreaks have prompted a massive increase on the uptake of COVID vaccines among the area’s Indigenous population, with rates almost tripling in recent weeks.

“First dose rates for the Aboriginal community across the region have gone from 17 per cent up to 56 per cent,” local health district chief executive Scott McLachlan said.

“(And) importantly the second dose rates for both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community across the whole of western NSW are now the same, at 38 per cent.”

There is also hope the region has neared or passed its peak in terms of case numbers, with Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders saying he is “cautiously optimistic”, but low testing numbers could be misleading.

Of the 1127 new cases for the state to 8pm on Monday, 58 are from Nepean Blue Mountains, 17 from Illawarra Shoalhaven, 14 from Hunter New England district, nine from the Central Coast and four from Southern Local Health District.

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