Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has flagged another expansion of Australia’s coronavirus testing regime, to include places and people who are seemingly virus-free.
- Tests to be expanded as less people ask to be tested
- Random testing a possibility for people in close contact jobs like supermarkets
- Change in testing aims to seek out cases before they spread
Professor Kelly said Australia had now carried out more than 400,000 tests but said it was time to actively go into the community to find more cases.
He said the switch to a “sentinel surveillance” program would offer tests to at-risk groups.
“Which might be doing laboratory testing in places where we don’t know there are cases to see if there, indeed, are some,” he said.
“It will lead us to consider what we would do in the case of outbreaks in high-risk settings.”
Professor Kelly said the plan was discussed at a meeting today with the state and territory chief health officers after the group was asked to consider how testing could be expanded by National Cabinet.
During the regular update in Canberra, Professor Kelly said an example of that at the moment was the response to the outbreak in north-west Tasmania, where hundreds of staff and residents at facilities have been tested as a precaution.
He said pop-up coronavirus labs could also go a step further, offering “relatively random testing” for people in other high-risk jobs.
“I know in other countries they have done testing of supermarket employees, for example,” Professor Kelly said.
“People that are at risk insofar as they have close contact with many people during the day.
“[That] is an example of a group that might be able to show there is a case when we did not see it at all.”
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
PPE directed to aged care facilities
As at Saturday afternoon there were 6,565 cases in Australia, 68 deaths and 55 people in Intensive Care Units.
Professor Kelly said the government was concerned about outbreaks in aged care facilities and was making personal protective equipment readily available for staff.
“We found in the relatively few outbreaks we have had so far in aged care facilities that it can spread very quickly, including to the workforce,” he said.
“We must protect our workforce as best we can.
“We are in a much better position in terms of personal protective equipment than we were a few weeks ago.”
He also flagged there would be more announcements on PPE in the coming days.
What you need to know about coronavirus: