Walgett’s only school, children aged 4 months to 13, at centre of latest COVID-19 surge

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A months-old baby is among an increase of new COVID-19 cases affecting mostly children in a school outbreak that has Walgett worried about coming out of lockdown.

Twenty four cases of the virus have been confirmed in the town in the past week.

Walgett police Inspector Trent Swinton said it was affecting whole families, and particularly children.

“Nineteen of those 24 cases are juveniles, they range in age from about four months to 13 years.”

The Walgett Community College, the town’s only school which caters for both primary and secondary school age children, is currently closed until further notice.

Inspector Trent Swinton from Walgett  says some locals are tentative about emerging from lockdown due to a recent increase in cases.(Supplied)

Inspector Swinton said the outbreak has prompted some people in the community, including the town’s mayor, to voice concerns about Walgett being released from lockdown.

However, Inspector Swinton said he thought the current restrictions and testing availability go far enough.

“There are still very tight rules and very tight parameters around some of these freedoms,” he said.

“With the roadmap to recovery we are satisfied that what’s in place now will assist us in gaining control over what we’ve seen transpire over the last four days.”

Testing rates remain strong

Inspector Swinton said the community has been vigilant about testing in recent days.

Since Friday, more than 700 people from the Walgett district have been tested for COVID-19, with residents also coming from Collarenebri, Lightning Ridge, and other towns to be swabbed.

However, he said people needed to continue monitoring for symptoms.

“It’s just going to be so important in identifying any future cases at the earliest opportunity.”

A medical worker in PPE attends to someone in a car.
Nineteen of the 24 cases this past week are juveniles ranging in age from about four months to 13.(ABC News: Hugh Hogan)

No lockdown planned

Eleven cases have been detected in the Western Local Health District in the latest reporting period, taking the region’s total for this outbreak to 1,502.

Two cases were detected in Walgett, one in Collarenebri, and four each in Orange and Wellington.

Western NSW LHD chief executive Scott McLachlan said despite only two infections in the Walgett LGA in the latest reporting period, the concern for health authorities remains high.

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Community gatherings — now allowed under relaxed restrictions in NSW — also pose a risk of accelerating case numbers in the coming weeks.

Mr McLachlan said further analysis of active cases, and the number of people infectious in the community, is needed before there would be any consideration of localised stay-at-home-orders for any one LGA.

He said there are no current plans from health authorities to re-introduce a lockdown in Walgett.

Surveillance testing and getting the community fully vaccinated will be a priority in the meantime.

“We know we’ll be living with COVID-19 for a number of years.

“Vaccination is our way out.”

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