Coronavirus testing criteria expanded

The coronavirus testing criteria will now allow the testing of hospitalised patients with fever and acute respiratory symptoms of unknown cause, at the discretion of the treating clinician. File picture

THE criteria for coronavirus testing has increased to include health and aged care workers, police officers, areas where there is a risk of community transmission and high risk settings where cases may be linked.

In a statement Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the National Cabinet had also agreed that testing would be expanded to include hospitalised patients with fever and acute respiratory symptoms of unknown cause, at the discretion of the treating clinician.

Mr Morrison said the changes would allow greater transition for the community to the new arrangements and ensure the national supply of essential PPE – such as masks, gowns, gloves and goggles for healthcare workforce.

On Thursday, March 26 Health Minister Roger Cook said to date 231 people have tested positive for COVIV-19 in Western Australia an increase of 26 from yesterday.

At 4pm he said a man in his 70s was the second person to die from the disease in WA.

Two people from the Wheatbelt have tested positive in the past week.

During the same period a four-year-old and their 10-year-old sibling and a seven-year-old have tested positive as well as people aged from 21 to 80-years-old.

Two new COVID-19 clinics opened in Perth this week – one at Joondalup Hospital with access via Car Park P4, Regents Park Rd and one at St John of God Midland Hospital on Yelverton Dr.

Until yesterday to eligible for COVID-19 testing people had to have fever and or respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough or sore throat and documented evidence of overseas travel in the past 14 days (provide boarding pass or flight booking or airline bag tag with name and date of travel) or be a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case (provide name of case).

But at the National Cabinet meeting on March 25 it was agreed to adopt the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee (AHPPC) recommendation to expand the current coronavirus testing criteria to include all health workers, all aged-residential care workers and geographically localised areas where there is elevated risk of community transmission as defined by the local public health unit.

Testing will also be possible in high risk settings where no community transmission is occurring but where there are two or more plausibly-linked cases, for example in aged and residential care, rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, detention centres-correctional facilities, boarding schools and military bases (including navy ships) that have live-in accommodation.

The statement said this was the minimum testing criteria and that states and territories had the discretion to expand their own criteria for testing if they had capacity.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, who is also the state emergency coordinator, said police officers would also be able to be tested.

The National Cabinet – made up of the prime minister, state and territory premiers and chief ministers – said it had agreed to a temporary suspension of all semi-urgent elective surgery.

They endorsed the recommendation for states and territories to suspend all non-urgent elective surgery and also agreed to extend the deadline for the suspension of semi urgent category 2 and 3 elective surgeries at private hospitals to 11.59pm on Wednesday, April 1.

It was also agreed that states and territories would continue to work with private hospital groups to ensure they can support efforts to protect Australians against coronavirus.

The implementation of nationally consistent public health directions, at the state and territory level, on self-quarantine for individuals diagnosed with coronavirus was also agreed to.

Last night they decided the instruction regarding 30 minutes per patron would be lifted (effective immediately), but that the 4sqm rule per person must be strictly observed within the premises and that personal contact during the patron’s visit should be minimised wherever possible.

Also it was noted that in hardship cases, states and territories can provide exemptions in relation to attendance at funerals, but only at the margin.

The National Cabinet will consider the need for any further measures at their next meeting on Friday, March 27.

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