COVID-19

Symbol of NSW Covid crisis takes its final swab

On the clinic’s final day of operation there were fewer than 100 people tested, despite more than 100 people dying with the virus the week before and 10,000 positive cases being recorded in the 24 hours to Friday morning. The clinic, operated by St Vincent’s Hospital, was opened on April 1, 2020, with less than 24 hours’ notice, after the Bondi backpackers outbreak exploded. St Vincent’s Hospital disaster manager Rachel Macfarlane showed up at the big white tent the next morning, armed with testing swabs and a whole lot of PPE. “It was really overwhelming for a lot of us,” she said. “Looking back now I never would have imagined we would be here two years, or how bad things got. We thought Christmas 2020 was bad, but then Omicron hit and that nearly broke us.” Over the clinic’s two-year stint, more than 350,000 people were swabbed, with staff testing more than 4000 people on its busiest day last year. “It was the Christmas period and we were dealing with long queues, it was hot and we had that whole other layer of complexity when it came to aggression and violence that we had never experienced before,” Ms Macfarlane said. Despite long days and non-stop work, Ms Macfarlane said she was honoured to have been part of the establishment of the testing hub — the country’s first community-based testing site. “It really is the end of an era,” she said. “I’m extremely proud of the work we did for the community.” Only 200 people on average were tested per day in the lead-up to the closure of the clinic, but Ms Macfarlane said people needed to be cautious. “(Positive cases) are increasing at the moment and people need to be mindful of that and take those simple measures to protect themselves like wearing a mask, washing their hands and social distancing,” she said.“Some of those unsafe practices are coming back, but the virus is still here.” Got a news tip? Email [email protected]

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