Nyngan testing site near the Big Bogan statue (Image: Bogan Shire Council)

Hundreds have lined up for COVID-19 tests in Broken Hill, Nyngan and Orange in regional New South Wales after a man from western Sydney travelled through them while unknowingly infectious.

Residents have been urged to come forward for testing but that is putting a strain on clinics and regional workforces.

Where are the cases?

On Christmas Eve the 18-year-old man visited the Berala BWS bottle shop, which has since been linked to 17 cases. (There were four local COVID cases recorded this morning in NSW.)

He then went on a 900-kilometre trip, stopping at the Gourmet Cribtin restaurant in Broken Hill, the Nyngan Riverside Tourist Park, the Birdie Noshery and Drinking est in Orange, and two petrol stations between January 2 and 3.

Those who visited those locations at the same time have been told to isolate for 14 days, regardless of the outcome of their test result.

How are the regions coping?

Orange Mayor Reg Kidd tells Crikey the city was well equipped to handle an influx of people being tested.

“We had a peak yesterday of about 50 cars,” he said. “In a place like regional NSW, if you have to wait longer than five minutes people get toey. We’re not used to waiting around or queuing.”

In late December testing appointments at the Bloomfield Medical Centre were booked out for days as those who had visited the northern beaches came forward for tests. The centre is closed until January 11.

The Orange Showground drive-through clinic reopened for testing yesterday with extended hours. The Orange Hospital fever clinic and Orange Hospital are open for testing.

Kidd says testing centres have been up and running for months, and the city planned to continue testing sewage.

Bogan Mayor Ray Donald, where Nygnan is located, says his town is well resourced: “Extra testing personnel arrived here yesterday from further west [and] the health authorities are making sure they’re here.”

Donald said 150 residents were tested yesterday: “Local people are responding and it’s a quick turnaround.”

Broken Hill Mayor Darriea Turley tells Crikey there were long queues at its three testing centres yesterday.

“It’s slow and steady,” she said, but added the local health district had managed well previously when two residents became infected in April last year.

What about staff?

With nurses coming from neighbouring regions or redeployed from hospitals to run the testing clinics, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association acting general secretary Judith Kiejda tells Crikey she’s worried about the well-being of the workforce.

“Nurses tell us COVID or no COVID they’re always being asked to work more shifts,” she said.

“Now on top of that you’ve got to staff COVID-19 clinics. You can only do that by pulling staff away from an already under-resourced system.”

She wasn’t worried there’d be a staff shortage, but nurses would experience mass burnout.

“You can only stretch an elastic band so far and the workforce is already exhausted,” she said.