COVID-19 update: Confirmed cases keep rising in Hunter

ON THE RIDE: The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Hunter New England Health area rose to 72 on Tuesday.
ON THE RIDE: The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Hunter New England Health area rose to 72 on Tuesday.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Hunter rose to 72 on Tuesday, as Hunter New England Health postpones non-urgent surgeries to prepare for an expected surge in cases.

HNEH has announced it will postpone non-urgent elective surgeries to allow for staff training and provide more capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Paul Craven, the district's medical controller for COVID-19, said these measures would also protect staff on the frontline who would be crucial to the care of coronavirus patients as cases rise.

"Postponing surgeries will be done in a staged way so we balance crucial staff preparedness with acting in the best interests of patients who are waiting for important surgery," Dr Craven said.

"The postponements will be based on clinical advice and an assessment of each persons case. This is part of our pandemic plan and is an example of how we are ensuring our facilities are prepared for COVID-19."

Previously, the District had postponed elective surgery for those who had returned from overseas.

"Now its necessary to extend this to other non-urgent surgery," he said. "All patients will retain their place on the waitlist and will be contacted to reschedule at a later date. Emergency surgery will of course continue.

"We will work with affected patients to ensure they get the care they need while they await their surgery. We know some people will naturally be disappointed, but we ask the community for their understanding during this difficult time."

HNEH would also review its outpatient clinics across the district, and would use telehealth services where possible to conduct appointments remotely.

"Urgent appointments will still continue and these patients will still receive care. Any non- urgent appointments that cannot be done remotely by telehealth will be postponed to a later date."

HNEH announced on Monday afternoon there had been an additional 25 cases diagnosed in the region, jumping from 47 confirmed cases on Sunday.

Of those 72 cases, 47 had been acquired internationally, 17 were infected by a known case, and four were under investigation.

The source of infection was unknown for four of the Hunter cases.

The virus has particularly affected people aged 60-to-69 in the region, with 18 of the confirmed cases falling into that age bracket.

HNEH is contacting close contacts of the new cases, who are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days from last contact.

They would be contacted every day to check that they are well and any contact who develops COVID-19 symptoms would be tested for the infection.

Seven people have now died in NSW having tested positive to COVID-19.

There are currently 12 COVID-19 cases in NSW Health intensive care units and of those cases, eight require ventilators at this stage.

For COVID-19 information or advice go to health.nsw.gov.au.