NSW shadow health minister Ryan Park has told The AJN, “The government must do better,” in keeping the community informed after residents of a Bondi apartment block were left in the dark for three days about a couple in their building having confirmed cases of COVID-19.
NSW Health revealed on Wednesday afternoon that a man in his 60s had been diagnosed, having returned a positive result to a saliva test on Tuesday. Health authorities also revealed on Wednesday that a household contact of the man had tested positive.
As The AJN exclusively reported on Sunday, residents in the block had no idea about the COVID cases in their building until Saturday night when a notice from South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) was placed in the building.
The notice was placed after the granddaughter of one of the residents phoned the health department to alert them to the fact some residents weren’t aware of the COVID patients living in the building.
The AJN has obtained a copy of the notice, dated June 19, which advises that “a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection has recently been in common areas” of the building.
“To our knowledge, the person did not come into direct contact with occupants of the building, however out of an abundance of caution we would like you to be aware that you may have had passing contact with COVID-19,” the notice states.
“We recommend that you get a test at a local COVID testing clinic and please monitor your health for the next two weeks.”
The notice also contains a handwritten note to say that all surfaces in the hallway had been sanitised at 5pm on Saturday night, three days after health authorities alerted the community to the initial COVID case.
The AJN understands that a number of elderly people reside in the building, and that NSW Health phoned the granddaughter of one of the residents on Sunday morning to inform her that her grandfather should get tested.
In a statement to The AJN on Monday, Park said, “Accurate and timely information to the community is absolutely critical during a pandemic especially when we have a local outbreak like this.
“The government must do better to ensure that close contacts are kept informed and that all of the necessary information about how to reduce the transmission is provided to them.”
He added, “It’s not about being critical of anyone who has caught the virus, because we know any of us at any time could catch it. However it is important that the government is transparent and provides accurate and timely information to try and slow the spread and keep the community safe.”
The AJN has approached NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard for comment.
Meanwhile, a relative of one of the residents, who spoke to The AJN on Saturday, before the notice was put up, slammed health authorities for failing to act sooner.
“Living in a block of nine apartments, the implications of a community member of this block having Covid – and the Delta one at that – is widespread and irresponsible,” the relative told The AJN.
“If we now recognise that the spread is transmitted through fleeting contact, why is there no mention of the fact that contact could occur between neighbours, on common area surfaces and casual encounters in the building?”
The relative added, “I am disgusted and appalled that more wasn’t done to protect the vulnerable in the building.”
The AJN contacted SESLHD on Saturday and was told in a statement by a spokesperson, “When residential settings such as apartment blocks are potential exposure sites, public health units work with strata management to assess the risk to other residents, and where appropriate, recommend measures such as increased cleaning or information to residents.”
The spokesperson did not answer The AJN’s questions about why residents in the block weren’t informed about the COVID cases sooner.
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