Residents of Newcastle and Maitland are twice as likely as others in the Hunter to have had a COVID test in the past month.
NSW Health statistics show Lake Macquarie and Newcastle, the two largest local government areas in the region, recorded 25,099 and 19,767 tests in the four weeks to 8pm on Sunday.
The figures translate to one in every eight people seeking a test since Greater Sydney went into lockdown last month.
People in Maitland were even more likely to be tested as one in seven presented for swabs, slightly more than in Singleton (one in 10).
But Cessnock had a testing rate of just one in 15, as did Upper Hunter and Dungog. One in 14 people had a test in Muswellbrook.
Port Stephens, which has a large elderly population, had a test rate of one in 12.
One in five people across NSW has sought a test in the past month.
The higher testing rates in Newcastle and Maitland reflect their proximity to recent COVID scares.
A Thornton 7-Eleven service station in the Maitland LGA was named as a low-risk exposure site after two trucks drivers visited. A Coles service station at Wallsend was also named as an exposure site after two Sydney removalists stopped there.
COVID vaccination in NSW
The growing Sydney outbreak and recent cases on the Central Coast have increased anxiety that the virus will jump to the Hunter, sending the region into lockdown.
But the government has refused to close loopholes in the state's public health orders which allow some Greater Sydney workers into Newcastle without having a COVID test.
Newcastle and Lake Macquarie are within 50km of Greater Sydney's northern boundary near Wyee.
Eight western Sydney local government areas are under a stricter lockdown which does not allow workers to travel outside their LGA without authorisation.
Greater Sydney tradesmen, real estate agents and property buyers are allowed into Hunter building sites and house inspections even though parts of these industries are closed in Sydney.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said it was up to individuals in Sydney to "do the right thing" to keep the virus out of regional NSW.
He said Sydney people should not travel to regional NSW "if you do not have to".
"Over the last 18 months every decision government has made is to protect the people of NSW," he said.
"But never before has it been so important to keep this virus at bay.
"I urge everyone in Sydney to do the right thing. Please do not travel to the regions. Don't put our regional communities at risk.
"We cannot legislate against stupidity, but, if people are going to put the regions at risk, we will try."
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