THE Hunter has had just one confirmed case of COVID-19 in a week, but the district's leading public health official has warned we must not become complacent.
"Now is not the time to take one's foot off the pedal, we have to search for the virus wherever we can," Dr David Durrheim said.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hunter New England have remained stable at 280, and there are now 59 active cases of the virus in the district - the lowest number recorded since a peak in mid-March.
There have been almost 22,000 people return negative test results in the region.
Dr Durrheim said the "plateauing" case numbers in the Hunter were promising, and praised the community's efforts to slow the virus.
But he warned against complacency.
"We cannot - we cannot - become complacent because this could backfire very quickly," he said. "The huge effort that has been put in, we have to sustain that.
"As we have seen in Singapore, if you relax your measures and the virus is still there, it comes back with a vengeance," he said. "And I can only imagine what the Sinagaporean authorities are thinking at the moment, wishing that they'd maybe maintained their stringent measures for longer."
NSW Premier Glady Berejiklian has announced that from Friday, groups of two adults - and their children if they have any - will be able to visit other households for social gatherings.
It comes as the national death toll reached 88, following an additional four deaths at the Newmarch House aged care facility in Sydney on Tuesday.
In Australia, there have been 6721 confirmed coronavirus cases since the outbreak began.
"I can understand why people would welcome the measures the Premier has announced allowing two families to get together and have a barbecue," he said. "In a way, it's a little bit of a celebration for the amazing effort that everybody has put in, but we really can't afford to relax completely, or this virus will come back and it will be to our detriment."
Dr Durrheim said recent measures to increase testing in areas - such as Lake Macquarie, Taree, Tamworth, and Armidale - were in response to multiple cases without a known source of infection.
"That's where we get worried that maybe there is quiet, clandestine circulation of the virus happening," he said. "We are hunting the virus now. We want to try to prove that we don't have virus circulating undetected in the community, so we would encourage anyone - especially those with symptoms - to be tested."
A 41-year-old man and 39-year-old woman have been issued with $1000 penalty infringement notices in Hawks Nest for not having a reasonable excuse for leaving home. Officers from Port Stephens-Hunter Police District stopped and spoke to the occupants of a stationary vehicle on Monday. Checks revealed they had received a previous warning.
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