10 May 2023

Cape schools now battling COVID-19 cases

| Matt Nicholls
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These Torres Strait youngsters did their bit to protect themselves last week.

STUDENTS and teachers in Cape York have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the return of in-person classes, but the major schools believe they are well equipped to handle the virus.

Dan Tonon, the secondary principal at Western Cape College, said it was inevitable that students and staff would have to deal with the pandemic at some point, but all measures were being taken to stop the spread.

“We’re going pretty well at the moment and things are under control,” he said.

“I couldn’t see a situation where classes would have to stop as a result of an outbreak.

“We’ve got plans in place to manage cases as they happen.”

Students at the residential campus were given rapid antigen tests upon arriving in Weipa and had to have another RAT a week later.

So far there have been no cases at the boarding house.

As it stands, there were 487 active COVID-19 cases within the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service region on Monday morning.

Active case numbers are fluctuating as cases are discharged from their one-week quarantine and new cases come on.

Two active cases are currently being managed in hospital at Bamaga and Weipa.

All other active cases within the region are being managed at home or other accommodation arranged in association with local disaster management groups, where home accommodation is unsuitable for isolation.

To date, accounting for those who have been discharged from quarantine, the TCHHS has recorded 2321 cases of COVID-19.

“With widespread transmission of the virus evident throughout our region, vaccination remains our best protection against the virus,” health service CEO Bev Hamerton said.

“While being vaccinated will not prevent you from getting COVID-19, vaccination has been proven to reduce the severity of the illness and help keep you out of hospital and, especially, out of intensive care.

“New national advice is that everyone aged 16 years and older will be considered ‘up to date’ with their COVID–19 vaccinations only if they have received their booster dose, as well as their initial first and second doses. Everyone aged 16 years and older is eligible for the booster vaccination if it has been three months or more since the completion of their primary course of vaccine – both doses.

“To date, we have delivered 5796 booster vaccinations across the region, which represents nearly 63 per cent of those aged 16 years and over that are eligible.

“If you are due for your booster, please come and get it for that added layer of protection.”

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service is also delivering vaccinations for children aged 5-11 years and, to date, have delivered 1421 vaccinations to this age group.

“Please remember, the child vaccine is being delivered in two doses about eight weeks apart so it’s vital you bring your child in for that second dose to ensure they are fully protected,” Ms Hamerton said.

“The sooner you bring your child in for that first dose, the sooner the second dose date will come around so your child can complete their course.”

Currently, 80 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 years and over in the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service region is now fully vaccinated with two doses of vaccine.

“As well as vaccination, we urge Torres Strait and Cape York residents to observe common sense hygiene practices. Please wear masks as directed, practice social distancing – at least three big steps – and good hygiene, including frequent washing of hands with sanitiser and get tested if you have symptoms, no matter how mild,” the CEO said.

“If you are sick with mild symptoms and cannot access either PCR or RAT testing, please stay at home.

“If you do experience symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain or severe light-headedness, seek medical attention.

“Testing helps us quickly find as many cases in the community as possible and reduce the spread of COVID, so please come and be tested if you have any symptoms.”

Testing for COVID-19 is available at all TCHHS health facilities through a combination of RATs PCR tests, depending on individual requirements.

If you are using a RAT at home and test positive, please contact the health service public health team on 0438 755 738 to register the result and for advice. Leave a message if unanswered.

Adult and child vaccinations are now available in most Cape York and NPA communities with specialist teams based at each of our health facilities from Monday to Friday.

In the Torres Strait, roving vaccination teams are visiting island clusters on a rotational basis.

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