A likely rise in Covid cases due to Christmas gatherings means people need to be prepared with a plan if they test positive to the virus while on holiday, authorities say.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said reduced PCR testing availability and GP opening hours over the festive season must be taken into account to ensure vulnerable people can stay safe from Covid.
While data confirmed the state was past the peak of the current wave, the rate of decline in infections would slow down significantly as families and friends come together for Christmas, Dr Chant told 2GB Radio.
We are seeing some indicators that we are starting to see a decline, but the rate of decline is really uncertain,” she said.
We know that this time of year is also a time when we see lots of mixing and socialising, so that might also slow that rate of decline.
“I would urge everyone to do those small things to minimise their chances of contracting Covid and also particularly to take care around those that are vulnerable and elderly.”
Wearing masks was still an “effective measure” to prevent viral spread, Dr Chant said, and while she stopped short of advising people to wear masks at Christmas gatherings, she said they remained crucial in hospital and aged care settings.
“You can just do these little things that reduce the chances or the frequency of you getting Covid infections,” she said.
Dr Chant emphasised the importance of people who were vulnerable to the virus and eligible for antivirals having a plan for how they would access the drugs if required.
She said people needed to be organised in the event they were infected, as GPs would be operating on limited hours and not all PCR testing sites would be open over Christmas and the new year.
“Know if you’re eligible for antivirals, and have a testing plan and also an antiviral plan.” she said.
“Rapid antigen tests are useful; however, if you have got symptoms and you test negative on a rapid antigen test, you should not rely on that, particularly if you are eligible for antivirals, you should get a PCR test.
“If you have symptoms, and you have a positive RAT, you can rely on that and be linked to care.”
NSW residents can view open Covid testing facilities on the state government website, while Covid patients can contact 24-hour phone service Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to be linked to available GPs and pharmacies.