NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard’s office reports that he has been swamped with media requests over the Christmas holiday period so CCN’s second request in as many days for clarification on the status of COVID testing on the Coast has been responded to with the following statement from NSW Health.
As locals continue to reach out to CCN about their inability to find rapid antigen test kits across the Coast along with their inability to gain access to PCR testing without waiting times of at least four hours, a spokesperson for NSW Health has said the department “is constantly monitoring the demand for testing and works closely with private testing labs across the state.”
The statement does not give the answers to questions we have posed about the local situation.
“Private providers have been a vital support and NSW Health has been working with them to ensure turnaround times for tests are as quick as possible.
“Testing capacity in NSW is currently under enormous pressure and the only people getting a PCR (nose and throat swab) should be those who: have COVID-19 symptoms; live in a household with a confirmed COVID-19 positive case; or have been in a venue which NSW Health has advised there has been high transmission.
“The requirement for testing applies to people who are fully or partially vaccinated as well as those not vaccinated.
“As an additional precaution, it is advised to take a rapid antigen test before going out, particularly if socialising in groups of people or anywhere it may be difficult to socially distance.”
The spokesperson said information on how to use Rapid Antigen Tests, if you can get one, is available on the NSW Government website.
Anyone who has a positive rapid antigen test result, must then get a PCR COVID-19 test to confirm the result, the statement said, which appears to contradict the earlier advice that only those with symptoms should have a PCR test.
NSW has requested that the requirements for PCR testing by other states be terminated and, where necessary, substituted by a rapid antigen test.
As of December 26, 2021, pathology services in NSW have performed more than 24 million tests.
There are more than 450 testing clinics across NSW. To find the location and operating hours of clinics, visit the NSW Health website at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/clinics.asp
However, anecdotal evidence suggests the actual hours of operation for some testing sites may differ from those advertised and wait times continue to be extensive.
Masks and QR check-ins
The rules in NSW have also changed again in terms of QR code check-ins and face masks.
All people over the age of 12 must wear a face mask: in indoor areas (while shopping, when at a library, for instance); in indoor areas of common property of apartment buildings; at a public transport waiting area; while on public transport (including in taxis and rideshare services); if you are working at a hospitality venue and dealing directly with members of the public; on an aircraft when the aircraft is flying above NSW and in the airport.
Exemptions are available but NSW Health says masks are strongly encouraged in settings where you cannot physically distance.
COVID-19 Safe QR check-ins are once again (from December 27) required at: retail premises; food and drink premises; pubs, small bars and registered clubs; hairdressers, spas, nail, beauty, waxing, and tanning salons, tattoo parlours and massage parlours; gyms (except dance, yoga, pilates, gymnastics, and martial arts studios); hospitals (except patients of hospitals or hospitals with an electronic entry recording system that records sufficient information that can be used for contact tracing); residential care facilities or hostels (except in relation to the residents); places of public worship, like churches, mosques, temples, meeting houses and synagogues; funeral, memorials and gatherings afterwards; nightclubs; casinos; strip clubs, sex on premises venues, sex services premises; indoor music festivals with more than 1000 people.
Occupiers of premises are required to continue to take reasonable steps to ensure people can check-in or provide their contact details when they enter these premises.
Most premises in NSW are now open to everyone, regardless of whether you are fully vaccinated or not.
You no longer need to show evidence that you are fully vaccinated at most premises.
However, you still need to show evidence that you are fully vaccinated if you attend an indoor music festival with more than 1,000 people or you work in certain industries.
Some premises may choose to require people to be fully vaccinated or to wear a mask as a condition of entry.
It is a matter for the occupier of each premises to exercise judgement on what is appropriate for their premises and the well-being of their staff and customers.
If you want to enter premises where an occupier has chosen to require you to be fully vaccinated, the occupier may ask to see your vaccination evidence. You do not have to show the occupier your vaccination evidence, but if you do not, the occupier may not let you in.
You are not required to be fully vaccinated to have people visit your home or visit people at their home.
However, if you are visiting an aged care facility or disability home, there may be rules that apply to you.
Check with the operator of the facility.