No COVID test centres available – Templeman: “appalling situation” – HHH need RATs or could close
Desperate Hawkesbury residents with COVID symptoms are having to drive to Lithgow, Penrith or Rouse Hill to get a COVID test after all local testing clinics failed to reopen this morning or are fully booked after the Christmas New Year break.
This morning NSW recorded another 23,131 new COVID cases in the last 24 hours and there are 1344 people across the State in hospital – a pandemic record high.
One Hawkesbury resident we spoke to this morning told us her daughter – who has COVID symptoms – went to Rouse Hill test centre but was turned away by police at 9.40am, after queuing from 7.30am. She was told the centre was closed.
And any centres open in the Hawkesbury are fully booked, so essentially closed to anyone except those who have booked a spot.
Windsor Respiratory Clinic on Kable St, Windsor is one example – they are open but there’s no point going there because they have told us they’re fully booked until January 13, such is the demand.
And a plea went out this morning from our leading local charity Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands (HHH) who keep people in difficulty fed, for more Rapid Antigen Tests. They were the only charity open throughout Christmas.
“We need to secure more RATS tests asap, not just for those who are experiencing homelessness, but for our volunteers who are frontline,” said HHH’s founder Linda Strickland on the group’s Facebook page this morning.
“They are frontline to hundreds and hundreds weekly, putting themselves on the line voluntarily, giving their time freely to help put food on tables across Sydney at the moment, whilst so many are closed. Our first priority is to make sure they are tested, have access to tests, otherwise we close and many will go hungry.”
“Their [volunteers] safety and wellbeing has to be our first priority, as you can't take care of someone else if you can't take care of yourself first."
“Also, it would be great if the government gave them for free, as the cost we would incur would be huge, that’s if we can even find them.”
Ms Stickland told the Post that RATs tests – even when they can get them – are costing $16 a go and with 10 volunteers on, that means an additional cost of $160 a day to HHH.
Last Tuesday they had 550 people in need come through their gates. Ms Strickland points out it is imperative none of the volunteers work if they have COVID, so the RATs are essential, especially given no local test centres are open or available for testing.
Macquarie Labor MP Susan Templeman has got on to the manufacturers of RATs today to try and help with a supply for HHH.
The Federal MP says, “Hawkesbury residents have been left in an appalling situation.”
“The news that the operators of the Clarendon COVID testing facility have closed it indefinitely – alongside Winmalee in the Blue Mountains, Olympic Park, Penrith RSL, Marsden Park and nearly 20 other facilities – will only serve to add to peoples’ anxiety, and limits the options they have to get tested.
“The lack of access to PCR and rapid antigen tests over the Christmas/New Year break has caused anxiety and stress for so many people in Macquarie. I have had distressed messages from people who need test results in time for operations this week, and people living with or close contacts of COVID-positive cases.
“The failure to prepare for this stage of the pandemic – which was completely predictable based on what we’ve seen overseas – is a failure of both the Morrison and Perrottet governments.
“When you expect people to ‘take personal responsibility’ you need to provide the tools for them to do that.
“For months I have been calling on the Morrison Government to outline a plan for rapid antigen testing.
“In early October I held an online forum with a globally renowned emergency response specialist and a local testing manufacturer to brief small business owners and workers on its use. That same month, I joined with Shadow Minister for NDIS and Government Services Bill Shorten to call for the government to provide disability service providers with access to rapid antigen testing for disability support workers.
“I have stated publicly that rapid antigen self-testing kits should be free so workers, businesses, aged care, disability services and families who need them can have another layer of protection.
“Yet the only people who can access them at the moment are those who are lucky enough to be in the right place when supplies are delivered, and have deep pockets to pay for them.
“These tests are provided free by governments to their citizens around the world to help protect people and protect the economy, yet Mr Morrison continues to fail the community, particularly by shifting the responsibility to the states.
“When the AIDS crisis occurred in the 1980s, Labor took a national public health approach – they certainly didn’t say to the states ‘it’s your problem, off you go’.
“We need a national government that will take a national leadership role, not one that buck passes.”
Meanwhile, Hawkesbury Liberal MP Robyn Preston is on holiday until January 10.
Ms Preston, told Hawkesbury residents in a post on her Facebook page on December 30 that local centres would be open today, January 4.
The Hawkesbury MP has not responded to our media request to find out what’s happening with test centres from the State’s perspective, and there is no message on her office phone to let residents know when she will return to work, though we understand she is on holiday until January 10.
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