The drive-though COVID-19 testing centres at Brindabella Business Park and EPIC have been forced to close to new arrivals after being swamped by people wanting to get tested.
They were expected to stay open until late tonight to clear long lines of vehicles, but Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has announced on FM radio that the sites were now at capacity getting through the existing lines and would close to new arrivals.
People have been waiting from four to six hours or more to be tested.
ACT Health has been surging and redeploying staff to meet the intense demand for testing but the need to establish a pop-up COVID-19 testing site at the Gold Creek School for hundreds of close and casual contacts will only put extra strain on ACT Health’s already struggling resources.
A 14-year-old student has tested positive, plunging the multi-campus Gold Creek and Holy Spirit Primary School communities into lockdown and requiring testing.
Construction workers at the Gold Creek School have also been caught up in the crisis.
ACT Health will have to divert precious resources to Gold Creek as it grapples with record testing demand at the drive-through sites at EPIC, Brindabella Business Park, and Weston Creek Walk-in Centre.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the ACT would continue to ramp up testing, but it was important that only people who needed to get tested fronted up at the testing sites.
These were people with symptoms and people identified as close contacts by ACT Health.
More testing sites were being planned but Ms Stephen-Smith could not say when these would come online but may include a centre on the southside.
Her spokesperson said the current sites would open for extended hours but would not move to a 24-hour operation.
EPIC was open until midnight last night but still had to turn people away.
Ms Stephen-Smith said State Emergency Service volunteers and Emergency Services Agency staff had been deployed to offer support to queuing vehicles, such as water.
She said extra staff had been drafted from across the Directorate into front line service to help with the demand. She defended the testing effort and pleaded with people to be patient.
“No jurisdiction in the first couple of days of an outbreak has been able to surge to meet the entire demand for testing,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“It is unrealistic when we have thousands and thousands of people wanting to get tested on the same day that we are necessarily going to be able to move everyone in the blink of an eye to do that.”
Brindabella tested more than 300 people yesterday, and EPIC tested 880. Overall, more than 2,000 people were tested.
Ms Stephen-Smith said Capital Pathology sites across Canberra were also conducting tests.