Image Credit: Daria Nipot
The NSW Police Force has announced that it will increase its presence at COVID-19 testing sites, based on reports of ‘anti-social and aggressive behaviour’ amid long queues.
NSW Health professionals have noted abusive behaviour whilst attempting to give directions to those attending testing sites.
Furthermore, it is reported that fights have broke out between those waiting for a COVID-19 test, as the long queues cause patience to run thin.
Testing sites have experienced unprecedented pressure in the lead up to Christmas, with 2-hour waiting times becoming the norm for many areas in Sydney.
In response to this, the NSW Police will deploy additional police that will ‘proactively patrol’ testing sites to help ensure the safety of NSW Health staff and those attending.
Previous reported incidents have included where a 50-year-old man allegedly punched a female healthcare worker in the head.
The man was not wearing a mask, and began to rant to the 31-year-old worker about vaccinations.
The interaction began after the woman approached the man, with it alleged that he began to film her on his mobile phone whilst ‘ranting’.
It is alleged that the man then pulled off the woman’s mask and punched her head.
The man then fled, with others who were waiting to be tested exiting their cars to provide aide to the woman.
Another incident included where a 61-year-old man was charged after allegedly driving at a security guard working at a COVID-19 testing clinic in Sutherland.
The man is alleged to have ignored directions from staff of the clinic, before becoming verbally abusive toward a security guard who directed him to leave.
It is reported that he then drove his vehicle toward the security guard before crashing into two signs and driving off.
The security guard was uninjured from the incident.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller remarked that there was never a time or an excuse to resort to abusive behaviour towards staff at testing sites.
“I want to encourage the community to be respectful and considerate of NSW Health staff, who are working selflessly throughout the holiday period to ensure our community remains safe,” he continued.
“Anyone caught behaving in an offensive manner, or abusing/assaulting NSW Health staff, will be arrested and dealt with appropriately.”
“Our frontline health workers are giving up their Christmas to take care of the people of NSW, so police will have a strong presence at our busiest testing clinics, ready to deal with anyone taking out their frustrations on people trying to care for our community,” said Minister for Police, Paul Toole.
NSW Heath and pathology company Histopath, who run many testing clinics, have acknowledged the increased delays.
NSW Health advise that the large volumes of COVID-19 tests are currently being processed, with testing clinics working hard to meet demand and increasing capacity where possible.
Whilst tests are aimed to be provided 24-48 hours, there are some reports that results are taking longer than 72 hours.
On Twitter, Greens MP. David Shoebridge reached out to Minister for Corrective Services, Geoff Lee, commenting: “we’re told that visitors to prisons need to get a PCR test within 72 hours of their visit and show a negative result, but some testing sites are taking more than 72 hours to get results – how is this meant to work.”
In-person visits retuned to many correctional facilities on 29 November 2021, following their suspension due to COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons.
However, all visitors and all inmates must be double vaccinated to have an in-person visit, with visitors required to present a negative COVID-19 test.
This means that children under 12 who have not had access to vaccinations, cannot visit at this time.
Those with medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccines are also unable to access in-person visits.