Delayed contact from NSW Health prompts criticism from Picton Hotel patrons

Pub couple slams slow-motion contact tracing

The effectiveness of customer registers at businesses has been criticised by a former Southern Highlands couple.

Erin and Brett (real names withheld) who now live in Wollondilly Shire, attended the Picton Hotel on July 4 for dinner.

It was one of the dates identified by NSW Health in a period of concern for anyone who attended the hotel. NSW Health has issued a warning through the media to anyone who attended the hotel between July 4 and 10.

This followed news that a man who had tested positive for COVID-19, after attending the Crossroads Hotel at Casula where there is a cluster of cases, was also a patron at the Picton Hotel. It is understood he attend the Picton Hotel on July 4, 5, 9 and 10 spending most of his time in the gaming room.

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Erin and Brett wasted no time getting tested and both have returned a negative result. Regardless, the couple will remain in isolation for 14 days as a precaution. But they are quick to point out it was a conscious choice they made without any official advice.

I just wonder how many people could have been out walking around because they hadn't been notified,

Erin

The couple is frustrated that it has taken so long for NSW Health to contact them of the possibility of their exposure to the virus.

Erin said they had both filled in the necessary paperwork upon entering the hotel.

She said she had also contacted Picton Hotel management who had confirmed that all customer details had been passed onto NSW Health.

But their first notification from NSW Health was not received until 9.15pm on July 15, five days after the hotel was closed for deep cleaning.

That contact was in the form of a text message that read:

This is a message from NSW Health. A COVID-19 case attended the Picton Hotel on Saturday 4 July, Sunday 5 July, Thursday 9 July and Friday 10 July. We are advising all people who attended the Picton Hotel on these dates to self-isolate for 14 days since the last date of attendance and get tested fo COVID-19. It is important to isolate for the full 14 days even if your test is negative and get retested if any respiratory symptoms occur. Please share this information with all people who were with you at the hotel and have their contact details prepared for when we call you. Please see this link for COVID-19 testing clinic locations: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/pages/clinics.aspx. NSW Health will contact you with further information

As far as Erin and Brett are concerned this message should have been sent to all contacts immediately, not several days later.

Erin said that on July 16 she received a phone from NSW Health asking her for personal details and confirming that she had been tested and was socially isolating.

"All I could think was that it was a bit late," she said.

"We had done this because of posts we saw on social media on Monday (July 13). No-one told us to do it.

"But what about those who didn't see posts on social media or those who don't watch the news?

"We were actually unsure if we had attended the pub on any of the nights listed [by NSW Health] until we checked our receipts for dinner."

As far as Erin is concerned a prompt notification would have resolved that problem.

"I just wonder how many people could have been out walking around because they hadn't been notified," she said.

Erin said she believed the pub was "trying to be on top of things."

"NSW Health needs to show more respect for their efforts," she said.

"People need to be contacted sooner to reduce the chance of spread of this virus."

The Southern Highland News contacted NSW Health asking them several question about the procedure for notifying people on a contact register in the case of possible exposure to the virus.

At the time of contact NSW Health Erin and Brett had still not received any contact from the health authority. These were the questions we asked:

  • I have had a couple saying they attended the Picton Hotel between July 4 and 10. They said they filled out the required details which they understand was passed on to NSW Health. Their concern is that no-one has contacted them regarding the situation at Picton Hotel. Isn't the customer reference required so that all possible contacts to a case can be contacted?
  • If not what is its purpose?
  • The couple, who have returned negative tests, and are still self-isolating as a precaution, say they took these steps because they learned of the situation through the media. Their concern is that not everyone listens to the media and some may think they aren't a risk because they haven't been contacted by an official. What is the NSW Health response to this concern?
  • Would at the very least an SMS notifying potential contacts be relevant?

NSW Health responded by directing us to their website. Erin and Brett received a text message later that night.

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This story Pub couple slams slow-motion contact tracing first appeared on Southern Highland News.