19 March 2020

UPDATED: Fourth COVID-19 case flew from US, drive-through testing set up

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Health worker

An ACT health worker at the new drive-through testing centre at Exhibition Park. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

A fourth case of coronavirus in the ACT has been confirmed as the ACT Government announced that it had set up a drive-through respiratory and testing centre at Exhibition Park.

ACT Health said the woman, aged in her 20s, had recently returned on Qantas flights from the United States where she had been exposed to the virus.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith earlier told a press conference at EPIC this afternoon that ACT Health remained confident that there was still no person-to-person transmission in the community.

“It still aligns to our evidence to date that there is not community transmission here in the ACT,” she said.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the woman had complied with self-quarantining directions for travellers returning from overseas and was now in isolation with ACT Health support.

A small number of household close contacts had been identified and contacted this afternoon, but there were a number of close contacts from her international and domestic flights that ACT Health was yet to identify.

Passengers in rows 71-75 on flight QF94 from Los Angeles to Melbourne, which arrived at 8:30 am on 17 March, are considered close contacts, as are passengers in rows 15-19 of QF2130 from Melbourne to Canberra, departing at 12:00 noon and arriving at 1:30 pm on 17 March.

Any Canberrans sitting in these rows should quarantine themselves and call the Communicable Disease Control Section of ACT Health on 02 5124 9213 for further advice.

Anyone else travelling on these flights in other rows are not considered to be a close contact, but as a precaution, should monitor their health until 31 March. Self-quarantine is not required.

Meanwhile, the new drive-through Respiratory Assessment Clinic and testing centre has been established in the Budawang Pavilion and will open tomorrow from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.

The Budawang Pavilion was to be one of the key venues at the National Folk Festival, but now instead of resounding to music the stripped facility will host vehicles driven by possible COVID-19 cases.

Budawang car park

The Budawang car park ready to take vehicles. Photo: ACT Health.

The Health Directorate has commandeered the government-owned facility now that the Festival is off and installed data collection and testing equipment for a quick and easy testing procedure that will be convenient for people but also offer more protection for health workers.

The drive-through will complement the Weston Walk-in Centre, which has been set up as a dedicated Respiratory Assessment clinic and testing facility, other walk-in centres and the clinic at Canberra Hospital.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the EPIC centre was an extension of the Weston model, which did not require a previous clinical assessment as is the case in South Australia which initiated the drive-through idea.

”It’s more like turning up to Weston in your car,” she said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said drivers would not leave the car. People would enter from Flemington Drive, be met by a nurse who would assess whether they met the testing criteria.

If testing is required, the vehicle will proceed into the laned Budawang car park marshalled by EPIC staff and then into the building where the testing area is.

A nurse will take details, a swab, and the driver will exit the building, go home and self-isolate until advised of the test result, and if necessary, continue quarantine or be treated in hospital.

Canberra Health Services CEO Bernadette McDonald said staff had been working on the drive-through concept for the last couple of weeks and praised them for the speed with which they had set up the EPIC centre.

She said there were no plans at this stage to set up any more clinics but staff would gauge demand.

“The key thing is we have the adaptability to scale up or scale down as we need,” Ms McDonald said.

COVID-19 drive-through testing

Drivers can be tested for COVID-19 without having to leave their car. Photo: ACT Health.

The centre will be staffed by a nurse to take swabs, supported by a number of administration staff to process patient details, as well as the assessment team outside.

Ms Stephen-Smith said test subject must be driving or a passenger of a motor vehicle or motorbike.

“You will not be able to access the drive through testing service from public transport, or as a pedestrian,” she said.

“For northside residents who are not able to drive to EPIC, both the Belconnen and Gungahlin Walk-in Centres can undertake assessment and testing for COVID-19, but Weston Creek remains the recommended location.” Minister Stephen-Smith said.

You should get tested for COVID-19 if:

  • You’ve travelled overseas recently, and you develop symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of leaving an overseas country
  • You have been informed by your local Public Health Unit that you have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 and you develop symptoms of the disease within 14 days of your last contact with that person
  • You’re a healthcare worker with direct patient contact, and have fever and acute respiratory symptoms, even if you have not recently travelled or had contact with someone who has COVID-19.

The ACT’s public health services have tested more than 1800 people for COVID-19 since 10 February 2020 and in recent days have tested more than 200 people per day.

For all COVID-19 updates go to the ACT Health website.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Capital Retro2:56 pm 19 Mar 20

Can’t they even tell us gender and age this time? Makes me suspect it is a young person.

Charlotte Thrills7:38 pm 19 Mar 20

It says a woman in her twenties. The official media release also states a female in her twenties.

First line of second paragraph

“ ACT Health said the woman, aged in her 20s”

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.