OPINION

COVID-19 messages where regional NSW is impacted is not good enough

Why COVID-19 messaging needs to be better

The daily 11am COVID-19 update and news conference of NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian has become a sought-after resource for information for people across the state.

The latest testing and positive case numbers, as well as restriction updates are delivered from the premier, NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant and NSW health minister Brad Hazzard and others.

The hope is to ensure that our community is well-informed.

But when random, comments without additional explanation are made by the powers-that-be, it does little to put the community at ease or in a position of complete understanding.

This was the case at the Monday, July 19 conference.

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Dr Chant mentioned areas of concern for increased testing but she provided no additional information as to why these were areas of concern.

Two of the locations listed were enough to send the people of the Wingecarribee Shireinto a complete panic. Those locations were Buradoo and Mittagong.

Furthermore, none of the media representatives attending the conference presented a question regarding any possibility of regional exposure. But shouldn't this detail be of interest to them considering much of their audience comes from regional areas?.

It was soon revealed, by checking the NSW Health website, that there was one case listed in the Wingecarribee Shire.

But nothing else was available - no information regarding whether or not this positive case was infectious in the community and no details about possible exposure sites.

So the community, which has been for the most part, following the latest COVID-19 regulations - registering movements with QR Codes, wearing face masks indoors and avoiding identified lockdown areas - is left wondering what next? And quite understandably many are worried.

Are there new exposure sites? Have they been to any of them? Has the dreaded virus once again reached this regional area?

There were no answers forthcoming with any haste. Our team of journalists put out several enquiries regarding the aforementioned questions. Several hours later still none had been answered by the authorities that should be releasing such relevant information. We had to stretch our feelers further afield to gain any answers.

Our search revealed that a doctor from Campbelltown Hospital, who lives in the Wingecarribee, had tested positive for Covid, but he had not been out in the community.

Meanwhile, our phones ran hot as people turned to us for answers.

A week ago when a similar situation - a case in the community - was identified in Goulburn the level of community concern was equally heightened.

In that instance the information slowly filtered down to the local media and the community - but from a media point of view, the information was not easilly available. It took significant inquiry to get answers to the questions asked by the community.

Has this virus been silently moving about in our community by someone who has now been diagnosed positive? Are there key exposure sites?

The bottom line is that people are listening, even hanging off every word that comes from our leaders, to find out what is happening with regard to this virus - especially when the worst cases are so close to home.

Throw away lines such as areas of "concern for increased testing..." followed by a reference to your home town, but no further explanation, are simply not good enough.

This story Why COVID-19 messaging needs to be better first appeared on Southern Highland News.