• An Alice Springs respiratory clinic will expanded their testing to detect COVID-19 more rapidly. (Aneeta Bhole/SBS News)Source: Aneeta Bhole/SBS News
An Alice Springs respiratory clinic operated by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress will now open COVID-19 testing to all community members and visitors.
Shahni Wellington

19 May 2020 - 10:11 AM  UPDATED 19 May 2020 - 10:14 AM

While some parts of the Northern Territory have begun flaunting the relaxation of social distancing measures, Indigenous health bodies in the red centre are ramping up their COVID-19 preventative efforts. 

An Alice Springs respiratory clinic, run by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, will now be open for testing to any community members who suspect they have contracted the coronavirus. 

People presenting at the clinic will no longer need to meet previous criteria or show certain symptoms, and the clinic will be open to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, including visitors to Alice Springs and surrounding communities.

Currently the Northern Territory has the lowest rates of coronavirus with 29 confirmed cases, zero community transmission and zero deaths.

Bundjalung woman and CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Donna Ah Chee, said the expansion is an effort to protect vulnerable populations and detect early symptoms.

"This has opened up testing to the whole community, but obviously the priority is our own mob," Ms Ah Chee said.

"We have to see this as a whole of community issue and provide accessibility to the testing, because we're in a great situation in the Northern Territory and in Central Australia.

"We've still got the border controls so now is the time to increase the testing, make sure that if we do get to a point where there is community transmission, we know about it very quickly so we can act, isolate and and do the necessary contact tracing," Ms Ah Chee said. 

Containment and surveillance

The Alice Springs respiratory clinic is one of of 100 centres nationwide approved to expand their testing, with funding from the federal government.

On Friday, the Northern Territory government enacted stage two in their 'Roadmap to the New Normal' which included the opening of bars, pubs and restaurants. 

As the buzz of social contact spreads across the Territory, Ms Ah Chee, hopes their efforts are enough to contain the virus. 

"We've had over 200 tests done so far since we started doing it a couple of weeks ago," she said. 

"By doing the testing - where we're actually doing surveillance, we're monitoring to make sure that that virus isn't here,"

"That's why it's important that people come in and get tested... If they're all feeling unwell, they've got a cough or a runny nose, you know, it even has to be a slight feeling of unwellness - You really should come and get tested," Ms Ah Chee said. 

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