TESTING for COVID-19 in Tamworth has skyrocketed in a matter of days, with the launch of a testing blitz on Monday.
Hunter New England Health (HNEH) confirmed that on Monday and Tuesday alone, the specialised clinic at Tamworth hospital had already swabbed close to 200 people.
In the previous four weeks, almost 600 coronavirus tests had been carried out across the city - including both the local hospital and private clinics.
The convenience of the drive-through clinic and relaxed criteria for testing have boosted numbers, meaning more than a quarter of all tests done in Tamworth in the past month occurred in just two days this week.
HNEH public health physician Dr David Durrheim said the only way to rule out a virus problem in the community is to do do widespread testing, and do it a lot.
"We're really hunting to see the virus, we want to test as many people as possible to prevent it from effectively being concealed anywhere in the community," he told the Leader on Tuesday.
"We'd be delighted if over 500 people were tested [this week], and it looks like that might be the case.
"That will start to give us much higher confidence that there is no virus being missed in the community."
The community uptake has prompted HNEH to extend the testing blitz in both Armidale and Tamworth for another week.
Tamworth locals with even the mildest cold, flu or respiratory system will now be able to book in a test at the drive-through clinic until Friday, May 8.
Armidale is also a testing hotspot at the moment, and the clinic at Armidale hospital has extended its operating hours to between 9am and 4pm on weekdays, until May 8.
Dr Durrheim said relatively low rates of testing in Tamworth combined with two confirmed mystery cases of COVID-19 in the city spurred the need for a local testing blitz.
"The fact that we've had two unknown source cases in the Tamworth area - so two people where we couldn't find their source - means that we want to be 100 per cent sure that it's not circulating in the community," he said.
HNEH said the mass testing isn't expected to uncover a cluster of cases - if any at all - but it's designed to help map the spread of COVID-19 in the local health district.
Dr Durrheim said a similar blitz in Belmont in the southern part of the health district saw 1300 tests done with no positive results - something he described as a "really quite exciting" outcome.
He said the purpose of the testing blitzes are for HNEH to test extensively and make sure there's no hint of the deadly virus hiding away in the community.
For that reason, HNEH has asked anyone with any kind of cold or flu-like symptom or respiratory symptoms - even if you'd be completely surprised to have COVID-19 - to get tested.
The latest update from NSW Health shows no new cases have been confirmed in Tamworth, or in the HNEH district, as at 8pm on Tuesday night.
There were 11 new COVID-19 cases added to the NSW tally in the latest 24-hour testing period.
To arrange a COVID-19 test, contact the Tamworth clinic on 1800 881 568 or the Armidale clinic on 0427 923 080.
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