CORONAVIRUS

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:06): My question is to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister update the council on testing for COVID-19 in South Australia?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:06): I would like to thank the honourable member for his question. As South Australia moves from the first stage of containment of the COVID-19 pandemic to the second stage of suppression, it's more important than ever that we do not relax the public health measures that have helped to protect us so far: social distancing, personal hygiene and staying home if unwell. These are still the best things all of us can do to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Another key aspect of this second stage will be a broad-based testing regime. Despite the low number of cases in South Australia, the public health advice is that we can expect new cases. In particular, as restrictions are eased, it will be crucial that these cases are identified as quickly as possible. We need ongoing testing for COVID-19, effective case tracing and rapid response. South Australia is well placed to implement this necessary broad-based testing. Australia already has a world-leading testing regime and in South Australia we have tested around 3.5 per cent of the population, putting us in a strong position compared to other jurisdictions and our international peers.

The commonwealth government's COVIDSafe app will be of great assistance in this process and I urge all South Australians to download and use the app as I have done. However, it has been made clear right from the beginning of the app's development that it is not a silver bullet. SA Pathology has done a sterling job to put us in such a strong position, and I commend them for their efforts.

They now have a new weapon in their arsenal in the fight against COVID-19 in the form of rapid point-of-care testing being rolled out for COVID-19. Point-of-care testing will provide a turnaround time of 60 minutes instead of the usual 24-hour time frame. I know that at times the turnaround time got down as low as 13, but without this point-of-care testing it is not possible to get down to an hour. The rapid testing ability will be rolled out across our metropolitan hospitals as well as in 10 regional hospitals. This new testing capacity will assist in diagnoses for patients who are deemed clinically urgent, allowing an almost immediate response to these cases. It will also provide faster identification and isolation of potential cases of COVID-19.

We know that the easing of our restrictions will be gradual and based on expert public health advice. We know that there is a danger of a second wave once restrictions are eased, as we have seen internationally. This new rapid testing ability will be just one of the safeguards we need to have the confidence to be able to consider further easing of restrictions, but all these plans are predicated on the maintenance of good public health measures such as social distancing. We need to support our public health team by practising these basic defences.


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