A drive-through COVID-19 clinic will open at The University of Newcastle on Tuesday, providing more opportunity for residents to get tested as the winter cold and flu season hits.
The four lane, pop up clinic will operate 8am to 4pm, Monday to Sunday for several weeks in a section of Car Park 1 at the Callaghan Campus.
Medical Controller for Hunter New England Health's COVID-19 response, Dr Paul Craven, said that as the weather became colder and there were more coughs and colds about, it was important for people to get tested to rule out COVID-19.
But he said it was also important for people to get tested at the most appropriate place.
"Winter is always a busy time for our hospitals so we're urging locals with milder cold and flu like symptoms, who do not need emergency care, to utilise other available options for testing, not just EDs," Dr Craven said.
"This will mean we have more space at our hospitals for those who need emergency care and we reduce the footfall at our facilities to protect our staff and vulnerable patients.
"The new drive-through clinic at the University will provide a fast and convenient way to access COVID-19 testing, along with the other clinics running across the district, and the free, bulk-billed testing being done in the community through other providers."
Anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough or shortness of breath, or with symptoms such as loss of sense of smell or taste, is urged to get tested.
"If you feel under the weather and need to be tested, we urge you to try to see your GP first, use a private pathology provider or use the drive-through service at University of Newcastle," Dr Craven said.
"If you cannot get to see your GP, the online GP service Swiftdocs can see you for a five minute free online consult before providing a direct referral for bulk-billed swab close to where you live, all at the touch of a button.
"If you are really sick, never stay away from hospital, please come and see us in Emergency. We are here for you."
State Member for Wallsend Sonia Hornery said the pop up clinic would help take the pressure off "already stretched hospitals".
"For the next month, university students will be on their mid-year break so traffic and parking will not be a problem," she said.
"When face-to-face classes resume on August 3, the University will provide additional parking spaces in car park 13B to accommodate for the loss of parking spaces for the clinic.
"I would encourage anyone in the community who has even the slightest symptoms to use the pop up clinic and get tested.
"We have all seen how quickly a second wave of the virus can spread, with Victoria seeing a surge in numbers.
"Our numbers in the Hunter have been very low, but we cannot get complacent and we must remain vigilant."
Those wishing to be tested at the University must contact the drive-through clinic on 4964 7497 to arrange an appointment, prior to attending. Phone lines open 8am Tuesday.