IT was back to the future for Newcastle residents on Monday as they flocked to COVID-19 testing stations in the wake of the virus being detected in the city's wastewater.
After months of relative freedom across the Hunter, a scare was sent through the region on Sunday night when NSW Health revealed fragments of the virus had been detected in the Burwood Beach Wastewater Treatment Works, the catchment for Newcastle, Dudley, Charlestown, Jesmond, Mayfield and Carrington.
Hunter public health physician Dr David Durrheim said it was hoped the positive sample came from a returned traveller and wasn't indicative of undetected community transmission of the virus.
We should know more by Wednesday, or Thursday, as results begin to filter through and additional samples taken from Burwood can be analysed.
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"After quite a pause where staff were sitting around wondering why they were even at the testing centres, now they are working extremely hard and my understanding is that every testing centre in Lake Macquarie and Newcastle is working flat out to cover the demand," Dr Durrheim said. "For the moment we need to hold our breath."
While most Hunter residents would have been hoping the worst of the pandemic was well behind us, we need look no further than India to see how quickly things can change.
The South Asian country is in the grips of devastating surge in coronavirus cases beyond anything witnessed in the pandemic, with the number of infections rising beyond 300,000 a day in the past week.
The skyrocketing caseload has overwhelmed the health system, creating shortages of oxygen and other medial supplies. Crematoriums and burial grounds have also been stretched beyond capacity.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt said cabinet's national security committee would meet on Tuesday to consider how Australia could support India through what he described as a "humanitarian and health crisis on an unimaginable scale".
Closer to home, we can do our bit by getting tested to ensure the tragic scenes overseas aren't repeated in the Hunter.