COVID-19 surveillance testing begins in Walgett as Yass council area heads back into lockdown

Walgett locals not symptomatic or close contacts no longer need to isolate after getting tested. (ABC Central West )

People living in Walgett in north-western New South Wales will no longer need to isolate while awaiting their COVID-19 test results.

The "surveillance testing" measure, where asymptomatic residents can be tested and do not need to isolate awaiting their results, has been put in place as part of an effort to increase vaccination and testing rates in the town which saw only 80 tests on Monday.

Walgett recorded two new cases of COVID-19 in the latest reporting period, while Dubbo recorded nine and Wellington two.

A previously identified case in Lightning Ridge was a false positive.

Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) chief executive Scott McLachlan said removing the need in Walgett to isolate after getting a test would encourage more people to come forward.

"Even if you haven't got any symptoms we know that in the last week there have been quite a few infectious people in the community," he said.

"We haven't identified all the potential cases in Walgett.

He said there were also plans to expand surveillance testing to other parts of the district.

The surveillance testing regime is described by NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant as "balancing competing risks and benefits".

Vaccination rates up

Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders lauded the western NSW community for coming out to get vaccinated, with more than 80 per cent of Dubbo locals now having at least one dose.

"Vaccination is one of our keys on a pathway out of COVID," he said.

The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council recently told a state parliamentary inquiry that Aboriginal health services are struggling to get Indigenous people to come back for their second vaccine dose.

Mr McLachlan said only 22 per cent of Indigenous people in the WNSWLHD are fully vaccinated, compared to 41 per cent of the non-Indigenous population.

WNSWLHD Chief Executive Scott McLachlan. (ABC Western Plains: Gary-Jon Lysaght)

He said it was "crucial" Aboriginal people get the second dose.

Yass back into lockdown

The Yass Valley Council re-entered lockdown overnight, only two days after the stay-at-home orders had been lifted.

One case of COVID-19 was reported in the area yesterday, and authorities announced the restrictions would return from midnight last night. 

The Yass Public School is shut after the Department of Education was told a member of the school community had tested positive for the virus.

Yass Valley Council Mayor Rowena Abbey said the community was "dissapointed" to be heading back into lockdown. (ABC News: Adrienne Francis)

Staff and students have been asked to self-isolate until they receive further advice.

Mayor Rowena Abbey said the lockdown was necessary, disappointing, and unfortunate "for the small businesses who were getting very excited about opening up, and the local community".

Meanwhile at Lithgow, part of the Nepean-Blue Mountains Local Health District, one new case was identified overnight, making a total of seven.

Tracking Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout (ABC News)

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