A study has found that many areas across the Riverina are among the most at-risk for serious health consequences from a possible 'second wave' of coronavirus infections.
Wagga's 2650 postcode was at slightly above average risk with a score of 55, with one being the best and 100 the worst. However, many rural areas across the Riverina, including Tumut, Henty and Urana, scored 90 or above.
Consultancy firm Finity and the University of NSW used public health data to identify areas with older populations and high rates of cancer, diabetes, lung or cardiovascular disease and obesity, all of which have been found to place a person at greater risk of hospitalisation or death if they are infected with coronavirus.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District medical services director Dr Len Bruce said the health service was consulting with a range of virus studies as businesses start to reopen.
"Unfortunately for at-risk members of our community, they should maintain social distancing as much as possible," he said. "Last weekend people were very excited for going shopping for Mother's Day and there were lots and lots of people in the Marketplace, and that is not the right behaviour for us in the current environment.
"I have sympathy for people who want to get out there, but when we relax social distancing the risk is out there."
Dr Bruce said it was important for people to keep in mind that even areas with an average level of risk still had many residents who were vulnerable to coronavirus.
Some of the postcodes with the highest risk in the Riverina were Tumut on 92, Henty on 96 and Urana on 99.
Areas in and around Wagga had the lowest, with a rating of 16 at Forest Hill and two at Kapooka.
The numbers do not refer to the prevalence of coronavirus in a particular or to the chances of catching the disease, with some Sydney suburbs with high levels of infections still having a low-risk population, according to the study.
"It definitely has value for us in the Murrumbidgee for managing the COVID-19 disease but there is also valuable information in there in terms of vulnerable communities that would be more susceptible to a variety of conditions," Dr Bruce said.
"A classic example of that would be the flu and how to distribute flu vaccine."
Wagga Senior Citizens Club public officer Barry Williams and his wife Sonia have been taking a lot of precautions since the pandemic hit due to their respective ages and pre-existing medical conditions.
"I think we're all concerned about a second wave of infections," he said.
"It has always been on the cards if people don't follow the rules.
"I'm very alert to the health risks. I've got asthma so I definitely don't want to get it and my wife has got diabetes so she is another at-risk case.
"My wife hasn't been out at all except to go to the doctor and I have used online shopping for the first time ever."
Mr Williams said the Senior Citizens Club was still hoping to see a return to holding social gatherings at the Commercial Club but it "could take a while".
Finity Consulting principal Aaron Cutter, whose firm co-authored the COVID-19 risk study, said the findings for each postcode were based on public and anonymous health data.
"It's not providing any insights into the success of social distancing or any individual's immunity to the virus," he said.
"Within an area there will be a range of people's ages and health conditions, and we have taken that information along with studies of COVID-19 outcomes from overseas to try and understand the vulnerability of communities if there was a 'second wave'.
"It's a combination of ages and various co-morbidities that have been identified as a risk of severe outcomes."
Mr Cutter said that the national map of postcodes suggested that the Riverina was "not that bad" in terms of risk.
"Wagga in particular has a relatively low risk compared to postcodes around Australia but there are two or three areas that are high risk," he said.