OPINION

COVID-19: Australia's regions need more help from state capitals

HELP NEEDED: A border checkpoint between NSW and Victoria. Picture: Mark Jesser
HELP NEEDED: A border checkpoint between NSW and Victoria. Picture: Mark Jesser

Here on the border of NSW and Victoria, we have complained since last year that we have been subject to lockdown based on COVID-19 cases popping up elsewhere in the state, often hundreds of kilometres away.

Our retail, hospitality, service industry - almost every industry - have been hurting and for no palpable reason of threat to our local public health. But now, things have changed.

As NSW opens up, the Delta outbreak is reaching the Murrumbidgee Health area and we seem ill-equipped to handle it.

According to Murrumbidgee Local Health District, we've had 105 cases and one death recorded in the area since the start of the current outbreak, including 51 cases in the Albury LGA. The list of local venues of concern is growing seemingly every day.

We are being urged to get tested and we are trying - oh how we are trying - with many of us turning up an hour and half before testing clinics open just to try and get a head start on the crazy queues and wait times to get through the door. Local reports from those in the queues stated that by 9.30am this morning people were already being turned away as they were at capacity.

The new Public Health Orders regarding vaccination in workplaces have been challenging enough to manage as regional areas have not had the same access to the vaccines the cities have enjoyed.

Personally, I've had two vaccination attempts cancelled on me in August and now my second vaccination needs to be rescheduled because I became a casual contact during one of the only times in the past four months I've been out the house. This means I need to also reschedule my first face-to-face client appointment since July as I'm stuck in quarantine.

The issue here is not the rules regarding testing and vaccination. The issue is the preparation and support that has been sadly lacking in the lead up to these issues.

The issue here is not the rules regarding testing and vaccination. The issue is the preparation and support that has been sadly lacking in the lead up to these issues.

Stores have had to close because they weren't informed with enough lead time of the impending vaccination rules for their workplaces to be open and thus, they don't have the staff to maintain operations. Stores that are open, are often understaffed and restaurants offering delivery services have chosen to shut down their delivery options because they are short-staffed and can't handle the rush of orders from in-person dining and delivery pressures.

However, with more people than ever before in our local area quarantining, this is limiting the access people have to these services even more. 'Just stay home' is an easy enough mantra to expect from our neighbours, but without the infrastructure to support the process, we are going to struggle. If we can't get bread or milk, or ingredients for cooking (and the short notice of casual contacts can leave people high and dry), then these delivery services are vital.

The most unnerving part of this process has been the testing clinics turning people away and the four-plus-hour wait times for those lucky enough to make it.

It's reminiscent of an iPhone release in the city, but without the gadget at the end - a swab up the nose is a far less enjoyable brain tickler than the release of new tech.

My husband asked me, "why aren't the testing clinics open 24/7" and I have to admit, I've wondered why the opening hours haven't been extended to adapt to demand.

It's one thing to ask people to get tested and self-quarantine, it's quite another to get it done.

A four-hour queue with others potentially infected is less than ideal - especially with anxious children who will invariably need a non-existent toilet at some point, or for someone with a compromised immune system or another health condition that makes standing for long periods of time for example, challenging; or social anxiety, agoraphobia, etc., which makes continuous contact with strangers hard to manage.

How do we make sure that everyone has equal access to tests? I'm still waiting for my test since being notified on Saturday night at almost midnight, and in the meantime I'm losing work and my kids are losing school time as we quarantine.

We suffered alongside our metro counterparts when they shut down the state. Where is our back-up for increased health support now we are in trouble?

This story Nation's cities need to help regions through outbreaks first appeared on The Canberra Times.