WE are slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our region, but we cannot become complacent, the Hunter's leading population health expert says.
As Hunter New England's tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 200 on Monday, Dr David Durrheim said the latest numbers were "encouraging", as they showed people's efforts were beginning to slow the spread of the virus.
But he said we had to keep going. We must not become "complacent".
The region had an additional 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, down from Sunday's 22 new cases and the 25 confirmed on Saturday.
"In this 24-hour period we have seen fewer cases than we have seen in the last couple of days added to our list," Dr Durrheim said.
"Across Hunter New England, we have seen that only 11 cases to date haven't got a specific origin - they haven't come off a cruise ship, or been a partner of someone who has come off a cruise ship, or they haven't returned from overseas.
"This is an exciting feature that says we are doing the right thing.
"We are slowing the spread of the virus.
"What we have got to do now though is not become complacent.
"We have got to put in everything now to distance ourselves and to follow the directions that have been given.
"Three is a crowd. Only meet one-on-one. Don't gather in crowds at all."
There are 11 COVID-19 patients being cared for in Hunter hospitals.
Six are in intensive care.
Of the 200 confirmed cases in Hunter New England, 158 had been acquired overseas, 26 were the contact of a confirmed case, and 11 were acquired locally - but the source of infection was unknown. Five were under investigation. In NSW, the number of confirmed cases has climbed to 1918.
Dr Craig Dalton, from the University of Newcastle, has said social distancing needs to extend to households, and called for financial support for COVID-19 patients who could not self-isolate at home or afford to move out to quarantine.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald that the government should pay for them to be separated from their families even if they were "mildly symptomatic".
"We can't have this massive effort of social distancing to have everybody stay home and transmit [the virus] within their households. It is such an important thing," he said.
"We tend to relax when we come home, and social distancing and hygiene practices tend to fall away. But at the first sign of a sore throat that person should be moved into an ensuite and stay in that room and have no contact with anyone.
"They need to bunker down in that room and keep the door shut and stay there until they are well."
NSW Health data shows there are 22 cases of COVID-19 in Port Stephens, 37 in Newcastle, 21 in Maitland, and 33 in Lake Macquarie.
There had also been 16 cases in Cessnock.
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