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Echuca Regional Health steps up fight against COVID-19

By Anna McGuinness

AS THE COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip Melbourne, efforts to protect regional Victoria from the spread are ramping up.

On Friday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced regional Victorians over the age of 18 were being asked to wear a face mask when they were unable to socially distance from others.

“This is a small thing but it can make a really big difference in stopping the spread of coronavirus and keeping those low numbers in regional Victoria,” Mr Andrews said.

“The mask can be homemade, store-bought or could simply be wearing a scarf . . . they will never eliminate risk but they reduce risk.”

Echuca Regional Health deputy director of nursing services Michelle Shingles said a mask could provide an additional measure of protection for people who were unable to socially distance.

“However, it does not replace the need to maintain physical distancing where this is feasible, and the need to practice hand hygiene and cough etiquette,” she said.

At ERH, staffing numbers have been increased in the screening clinic to meet the demand for testing.

“Staff are working extra shifts or coming in at short notice as required,” Ms Shingles said.

“The staff working in the clinic are doing an amazing job in the current situation, as are all staff within the organisation.

“All areas have taken on extra tasks and provided assistance to other departments as required,” she said.

So far this month, ERH has taken 770 swabs, with 360 people tested in the last seven days.

“We have definitely seen an increase in the number of people presenting for symptomatic testing with a range of 40-80 presentations per day,” Ms Shingles said.

Ms Shingles said the increased number of tests conducted statewide had resulted in a 4-6 day turnaround for results.

“Once the swabs leave ERH we have no control over the length of time it takes for processing nor do we have any influence on having results fast-tracked,” she said.

Ms Shingles said the community had been very patient and courteous when presenting to the clinic.

“But on occasion our staff have been subjected to verbal abuse by frustrated members of the public,” she said.

“We ask that you remain patient and treat all staff with respect as they work hard to provide this service in trying circumstances.”

“The Echuca-Moama community have been very vigilant and we are lucky to not have any community transmission so far,” she said.

“If everyone follows the guidelines we are all helping to reduce the spread.”

Ms Shingles encouraged the community to watch this video from Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton with more information on how to wear a mask: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwXJtN2Yt60

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