COVID-19 testing has been expanded in Victoria

VICTORIA has expanded its testing for COVID-19. Testing will now be based only on the clinical symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of age or occupation.

These symptoms include any new fever, chills or breathing problems, specifically cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.

People in the general community with these symptoms will be eligible for testing.

Testing will also continue for people with compatible symptoms who are close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases, travellers from overseas, cruise ships passengers, as well as health care workers and people whose employment and contact with the broader public may place them at higher risk.

Healthcare workers and other frontline employees will be able to have their test results returned faster, allowing them to get back to their work as soon as possible.

The government says it is able to expand testing because the number of people returning from overseas has significantly reduced, and more labs have come online.

There are now 40 screening clinics open across Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said Victoria was at a “pivotal time” in its response to COVID-19.

“We have been successful in decreasing the number of cases coming from overseas due to reduced international travel and quarantine measures, however we now need to focus on finding cases that are being transmitted in our community to further slow the spread,” he said.

“The testing criteria have therefore been changed to include people with clinical symptoms of COVID-19, irrespective of where they have travelled or any other criteria such as age or occupation.

“We must remain vigilant and not erode the gains made in slowing the spread of the virus.

“Now is not the time for complacency.

“We still have a long way to go,” Professor Sutton said.

“While we are starting to see some improvement in the rate of transmission, that rate could climb quickly if we lose focus.

“Physical distancing will save lives.

“Everyone needs to comply with restrictions in place to keep yourself, your loved ones and the whole community safe.

“Our message is clear: if you can stay home, you must stay home.”

The Department of Health and Human Services follows up and monitors all close contacts of confirmed cases and provides them with information and support. All close contacts must self-isolate for 14-days.

The current testing criteria is available at www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/health-services-and-general-practitionerscoronavirus-disease-covid-19.

There are only four reasons for Victorians to leave their homes: food and supplies; medical care and care giving; exercise; and work or education.

Police have strong powers to enforce these directions and can issue on the spot fines, including up to $1652 for individuals and up to $9913 for businesses.

Under the State of Emergency, people who don’t comply could also be taken to court and receive a fine of up to $20,000. Companies face fines of up to $100,000.

People should only present to hospital emergency departments if they have severe symptoms, and they should phone first.

Those with milder symptoms are encouraged to phone their regular clinic first, and will then be instructed as to the next steps.