Australia

Coronavirus testing guidelines in Australia are about to change

South Australia Hospital staff simulate a drive through coronavirus testing at the Repatriation Hospital in Adelaide, Tuesday, 10 March, 2020. Source: AAP

Australia's deputy chief medical officer says authorities will soon announce recent overseas travel will no longer be a requirement to be tested for COVID-19.

The guidelines for testing for COVID-19 will be changed this week to drop the overseas travel component, as the coronavirus spreads.

"We'll be removing the traveller component, but we're working on that at the moment," Australia's deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly told ABC TV's Q&A program on Monday,

He said there would be announcements on the test changes this week.

He defended the initial guidelines now that people not showing symptoms were spreading the virus, as more than half of the 1709 cases in Australia directly came from an overseas traveller.

"We need to test where it's most likely to be positive. Up to this point it's most likely to be in people that have been returning from overseas," he said.

A health care professional applies a swab at a drive-thru coronavirus testing facility for residents Arlington, Virginia.
A health care professional applies a swab at a drive-thru coronavirus testing facility for residents in Arlington, Virginia.
AAP

There was also a global shortage of testing kits which meant the health authorities had set guidelines for who should be tested.

"Mostly the guidelines for testing are about a travel component and the travel is decreasing," Dr Kelly said.

He said the coronavirus was "much more infectious than the flu", making social distancing and isolation important to stop its spread.

"It does spread quickly and reasonably short contact can actually allow that to spread from person to person."

Around 140,000 Australians have been tested for the virus, and seven people have died.

If you believe you may have contracted the coronavirus, call your doctor (don't visit), or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

 

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