THE number of people presenting to Gunnedah and Tamworth hospitals for testing for COVID-19 isn't very high, according to Hunter New England Health (HNEH).
HNEH Executive Director of Rural and Regional Health Services Susan Heyman said numbers of presentations to the two hospitals had "been quite low", and that "testing is not as high as you might expect it to be".
"People that are presenting are people who are more concerned and don't meet the criteria," Ms Heyman told ACM.
"We encourage people to self-isolate rather than present to hospital because we don't want hospitals to be flooded with people. The more people that come in, the more chance it spreads across the hospital.
"If they have a fever or cold and flu-like illness; been overseas in the last 14 days; been in contact with someone who is a confirmed COVID-19 patient, then they would all be reasons to have testing."
The news comes after HNEH confirmed on Thursday afternoon that it was supporting two new patients confirmed to have the virus, bringing the total in the district to 13.
This includes a male in his 60s in home isolation after recently returning from the US; and a male in his 20s in home isolation after recently returning from Asia.
HNEH said it was contacting close contacts of the two new cases, who are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days from last contact. They will be contacted everyday to check that they are well and any contact who develops COVID-19 symptoms will be tested for the infection.
Ms Heyman said locations of patients weren't being disclosed to the public because of privacy and to not create "fear that's not warranted".
"As a local health district we're giving information about each positive case that comes forward, we're just not explicitly saying what town," she said.
"We've got a lot of very small towns and people could be identified and that's not very respectful, and it could also create a lot of fear that's not warranted."
ACM asked if disclosing the locations would be beneficial to those who may have come in contact with the COVID-19 patients, but Ms Heyman said HNEH completes "thorough contact tracing" to track the patients steps.
"If someone is tested and they come back positive then the public health unit does really thorough contact tracing, and every person that may or did come in contact with them is contacted directly and they're advised and tested," she said.
"It's more controlled and responsible response rather than an unwarranted fear.
"We're following the advice of the experts and the Ministry of Health in making sure what we do is protecting our community."
Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital would also be the hub for any district patients who contract the virus and are "critically sick", she said.
"Tamworth has increased intensive care unit capacity [so] if they can't be cared for at home or the local hospital, Tamworth ... becomes the high-level facility they're referred to," Ms Heyman said.
"People that have mild or moderate symptoms can be housed at home [and] that's often where people want to be unless they're really sick."
She emphasised that residents needed to practice good hygiene like basic cough etiquette and regular hand-washing.
"They're simple things but they're really, really important and if we can encourage people to do more of that I think people can be protected over a long period of time," she said.
More information about COVID-19 can be found on the NSW Health website at https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/