Two new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Hunter New England Health district as authorities raise the alarm about the growing COVID-19 situation in Sydney.
The new cases, a woman in her 30s and a woman in her 60s, are close contacts of a Port Stephens man in his 30s, who was confirmed as having the virus last week.
The women have both been isolating at home since they were identified as close contacts. Hunter New England Health said there was no ongoing risk of community transmission.
But while Hunter New England Health public health controller Dr David Durrheim said the situation in Port Stephens was "encouraging", he said there was real concern about Sydney - which was where the first Port Stephens case has been linked back to.
The Queensland government announced on Wednesday it would close its borders on Saturday to anyone who has visited one of 34 local government areas in Greater Sydney, including the Central Coast, in the past 14 days.
The Hunter was not included in the declared hotspots, but Dr Durrheim said the region's close proximity to the state capital was worrying.
"We strongly advise people to restrict unnecessary travel to Sydney," he said.
"And we encourage Sydneysiders not to travel north.
"We know there's movement of people from Sydney to the Hunter.
"We can see how quickly the hotspots are emerging in Sydney.
"We really need to treat people we see as if they have the virus."
Dr Durrheim said that included keeping 1.5 metres of distance from other people, stringent hand washing, cleaning high-touch surfaces and getting tested if any symptoms are present.
"It's now vital," he said. "We have to be on our highest level of vigilance."
Hunter New England Health said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon the Port Stephens cases had shown just how quickly the virus can spread.
IN THE NEWS:
The University of Newcastle drive-through clinic tested more than 500 people on Wednesday, 615 people on Thursday and more than 400 each day since except for Sunday, when extreme weather hit the Hunter.
The new drive-through clinic at Tomaree tested 482 people on Friday after opening on Thursday afternoon, followed by 345 on Saturday, 144 on Sunday, 172 on Monday and 153 on Tuesday.
Testing figures at Maitland Hospital rose from 146 on Tuesday last week to 348 the next day, but have gradually decreased since.
Dr Durrheim described the testing numbers as "solid", but acknowledged the spike had led to increased waiting times for those calling to book.
He said phone staff had since been increased to cope with the number of calls.
"There was obviously a huge demand with great concern in the community," he said.
"We thank the community for their patience.
"There are additional staff on the phones now so hopefully people are getting through better."
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