COVID-19 testing blitz for South Australia
By Steven Marshall MP | Stephen Wade MLC on Wednesday, April 15th, 2020
Features in QESP NewsletterVolume 32 , Issue 4 - ISSN 1325-2070
(QESP Editor’s Note: The following is a reprint of a 15/04/2020 communication from SA Premier Steven Marshall and Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade. The original, is available at https://www.premier.sa.gov.au/news/media-releases/news/covid-19-testing-blitz-for-south-australia )
South Australia will build on its world-leading testing regime for COVID-19 by launching a two-week testing blitz starting tomorrow.
The expansion of testing criteria will give symptomatic South Australians the reassurance they are not infected, while also providing public health clinicians greater understanding of the prevalence of the virus within the state so we are able to plan the next battle in the war against COVID-19.
Testing has been the cornerstone of the Marshall Government’s strong plan to protect South Australian’s during the coronavirus pandemic.
Premier Steven Marshall said South Australia is in the enviable position of being able to undertake this blitz to both identify disease early and to strengthen community wide protection.
“We have led the nation in terms of the number of tests undertaken in South Australia, and our testing rate is among the highest in the world,” said Premier Marshall.
“South Australia’s world class testing regime has been critical in our success in bending the curve and pushing out the peak of COVID-19.”
“The expansion of testing is the next step in our strong plan to protect South Australians from the disease.”
Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said South Australia’s early decision to test people presenting with respiratory problems for COVID-19 has been instrumental in controlling the pandemic.
“Up until now, COVID-specific testing has focussed on those people most at-risk of contracting the disease, including people who have travelled, those who have spent time in known hot spots like the Barossa, and those who are close contacts of cases.
“While the evidence suggests that there is not widespread community transmission, low case numbers in recent days means we have an opportunity and the capacity to test a broader section of the community. This blitz will give us the opportunity to get a better read on the level of disease in the community.”
From Thursday, any South Australian who has fever or chills in the absence of an alternative illness, or an unexplained acute respiratory infection including a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, will be able to be tested for COVID-19 as part of the blitz.
SA Health’s Chief Public Health Officer, Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier, said with the appreciation both internationally and locally of mildly symptomatic cases, the testing blitz will identify unknown cases that may not have been discovered through contact tracing.
“Our experience with the Adelaide Airport cluster and evaluation of similar clusters interstate is that some of the cases we identified had quite mild symptoms,” said Professor Spurrier.
“Although our expertise in contact tracing is world-class, we want to ensure that absolutely every case of COVID-19 in South Australia is identified to provide the best protection to individuals, their families, friends and the community.
“Over the next two weeks, any South Australian who has a fever or respiratory symptoms consistent with coronavirus, no matter how mild, is welcome to attend one of our COVID-19 clinics, or their GP, for assessment and testing.
“We have already taken significant steps to minimise the spread of coronavirus locally, and the testing blitz is yet another way of reassuring the community that we are picking up all cases of COVID-19.”
Dr Tom Dodd, Clinical Services Director from SA Pathology, said there is ample stock of testing kits to undertake the two-week blitz.
“Of the more than 34,000 individuals who have been tested, we have had positive test results return in just 1.3 per cent of people,” Dr Dodd said.
“There have been 37,500 COVID-19 laboratory tests conducted by SA Pathology to date and while there were some initial concerns about the availability of the testing reagent worldwide, we have stock for 45,000 tests on hand.
“Our laboratories have the capacity to analyse greater than 1,500 specimens each day, and given the smaller numbers of testing we have seen recently, we certainly have the capacity to cope with an increase in tests.
Individuals with symptoms should contact their GP about getting tested for COVID-19, or visit a dedicated COVID-19 clinic.
The testing blitz will commence Thursday 16 April 2020, and run until close of business, 30 April 2020.
At the completion of the blitz, testing data will be reviewed and a determination will be made on whether our strategy needs to be modified and testing criteria adjusted accordingly.