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North West Testing Must Be Expanded

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 16 April 2020

Tags: Health, Hospitals, COVID-19

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health spokesperson

The current high rate of positive coronavirus test results being reported for North West Tasmania strongly suggests we must use our dormant capacity and expand the formal testing being undertaken.

In Monday’s briefing, the Director of Public Health noted an average of 80 tests per day had been conducted over the previous 4 days in the North West.

In the subsequent two days, we heard just over 100 tests a day had been conducted in the North West. This gives a total approximate number of 550 tests in this period. Over those days, 57 cases of coronavirus were reported in the region.

The rate of positive COVID-19 tests for the North West was over 10% across Easter. In comparison, the statewide rate since the start of the crisis is approximately 3%.

We need to understand the true spread of coronavirus in the North West. The high rate of positive tests from the region suggests the testing net is not being cast wide enough.

The government’s North West testing policy currently focuses on three ‘at risk’ categories. This focus on the already known risk areas means we’re getting a high proportion of coronavirus positive test results, but it’s not telling us about the extent of possible community transmission that could be silently happening.

The only way to know the full extent of the outbreak in the North West is for a public health drive, conducting community-based testing at key locations, such as supermarkets or petrol stations.

The State Government has clearly worked hard to expand testing capacity, and this is very welcome.

However, since the hospital closures and mass quarantine in the Burnie region, the number of coronavirus tests has only risen by 20 each day.

A testing blitz is possible, but it is not currently occurring. At the current level of testing, we are missing out on the opportunity to test 400 more people for coronavirus every single day.

The government must immediately undertake a proactive community-based testing campaign in the region. In an outbreak this serious, we need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to track the spread of the virus.