Push to release confirmed COVID-19 case locations

Source: NSW Health, March 25, 2020. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/covid-19-latest.aspx#statistics
Source: NSW Health, March 25, 2020. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/covid-19-latest.aspx#statistics

Two more confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday have brought the Mid North Coast total up to 14.

A woman in her 70s is in home isolation after returning from overseas and another woman in her 60s is in hospital after returning from overseas.

But anger is growing that Mid North Coast communities are being left in the dark about the actual location of the confirmed cases.

The push to have coronavirus infection numbers reported for each Local Government Area is supported by Bellingen Shire's mayor.

"I agree that we need it, if only to realise how serious it is," Cr Dominic King said. "A lot of people are assuming it's not going to impact them. We don't seem to be able to heed the warnings."

The Mid North Coast health district covers a large area, covering the LGAs of Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Nambucca, Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings.

It's argued that reporting the cases for each LGA would not jeopardise anyone's privacy and it would help to give residents better information about what was happening around them locally.

Today, the Newcastle Herald has reported that Hunter New England Health has responded to public pleas to know the local government areas where cases of COVID-19 have occurred: 19 confirmed cases in the Newcastle, five in Port Stephens, 24 in Lake Macquarie, six in Maitland, alongside 19 cases in the Lower Mid North Coast, 15 in the Hunter Valley, and 12 in the New England regions.

But the Mid North Coast Local Health District is holding steadfast, issuing a statement on Facebook responding to the repeated calls to release information about cases by LGA:

"We understand there are concerns in the community about the location of people with COVID-19, as people are obviously keen to protect themselves against the virus.

"Please be assured that anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 and their close contacts are either being treated in hospital or are in self-isolation to ensure there is no ongoing risk of infection to others in the community.

"Locations of where these people live, work, or have visited do not pose any ongoing risk to the public. And it's important that just as we would want our health privacy protected, we afford others that same courtesy.

"Those self-isolating are doing a great service for our community and we need people to feel confident about their privacy when coming forward to report if they are unwell. Otherwise people may not seek help for fear of being victimised and we risk the virus spreading further.

"Please be assured that we will let the community know of any public locations where there has been a known risk of infection. This is in line with national protocols and is so you can monitor symptoms and seek medical assistance if you become unwell.

"We want to stress how important it is for everyone to do their bit. Wash your hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes, maintain social distancing and stay home if you're unwell.

"Again, Mid North Coast Health follows the guidelines of the National Department of Health in addition to NSW Health. Our District will continue to keep the public updated by releasing all appropriate information as guided by the NSW Ministry of Health and Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant."

Yesterday NSW Health released some figures broken down by LGA, but only those cases known to be contracted in NSW communities.

According to that list, Bellingen Shire has no locally-acquired cases of COVID-19. If there are cases here, they have been contracted overseas.

So far the only person in the MNCLHD known to have contracted COVID-19 locally is the 14-year-old St Columba Anglican School student from Port Macquarie.

Clusters of cases in NSW have been reported in Cessnock, Camperdown, Wollongong, Ryde, Waverley and Hornsby.

NSW Health has published case maps by district, and locally acquired cases with an unknown source of infection by local government area. To view these, visit: