23 April 2020

ACT to widen COVID-19 testing net

| Ian Bushnell
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Weston Walk In Clinic

Weston Walk-in Centre, one of the designated testing sites for COVID-19. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The ACT Government will widen its COVID-19 testing net from tomorrow (24 April) to include people who show symptoms but have not travelled overseas recently, been a close contact of a confirmed case or met the previously expanded criteria.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the ACT’s designated COVID-19 testing sites at EPIC and the Weston Walk-in Centre would be taking samples from all symptomatic people who present over the next two weeks.

People will still need to have COVID-19 symptoms in order to be tested, a fever of 38 degrees or greater or history of fever such as nightsweats, or acute respiratory illness such as shortness of breath, a cough or sore throat.

They will no longer need to have travelled overseas recently, be a close contact of a confirmed case or meet the other previously expanded criteria.

People who are tested under the new arrangements will still be required to self-quarantine until they receive a negative test result.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the expansion in testing was made possible by the recent drop in demand for testing using the existing criteria.

“Due to excellent adherence to physical distancing rules and the reduction in returning overseas travellers, we have an increasing capacity to test other people from groups that are less likely to have come into contact with COVID-19,” Dr Coleman said.

“We have already been looking for COVID-19 cases in the community through testing of other high-risk groups but this increased surveillance will provide ACT Health with really important information about the prevalence or absence of COVID-19 in the ACT.”

People who have COVID-19 symptoms should call their general practitioner or attend one of the designated testing services.

Ms Stephen-Smith said Canberrans has been doing an incredible job in helping us stop the spread of COVID-19 and only one confirmed case had been uncovered in the past nine days.

“We are confident that we are in a very good position in the ACT. Given our low number of confirmed cases and extremely low number of COVID-19 patients in our hospitals, we do not expect to see a large number of undiagnosed cases,” she said.

“However, this increased testing will give us some really valuable information as we make decisions about the way forward.”

Ms Stephen-Smith asked Canberrans to be patient when seeking testing.

“These expanded criteria will be in place for the next two weeks so there is no need for everybody to try and get tested on the first day,” she said.

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