Immediate coronavirus testing kit supplies guaranteed: Govt

Matt Woodley

23/03/2020 4:52:09 PM

But the personal protective equipment required to conduct such tests is being rationed ‘at every level of distribution’.

Person in mask holding test kit.
The Government has prioritised ensuring there is enough personal protective equipment for ‘first responders’.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the arrival of 97,000 additional coronavirus testing kits last week had ensured ‘immediate supply requirements’, but warned there is a continued need to use them carefully.
So far more than 115,000 Australians have been tested for coronavirus, with 0.7% returning a positive result.
Prime Minister Morrison could not provide a specific timeframe as to how long Australia’s test kit needs will be met, but said the Doherty Institute is considering options for sourcing them domestically, as well as the potential use of other alternative methods for testing.
‘It is a function of demand, and those demands can vary,’ Prime Minister Morrison said.
‘We have got the lowest test positivity in the world … [but] we need to be judicious in the way that we use these testing kits.’
However, despite securing an immediate supply of testing kits, Australian Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy revealed in an update to GPs over the weekend that a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) had led to uncertainty over future stocks.
‘The Government is … investing $1.1 billion in the purchase of additional stocks, along with antibiotics and antivirals to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 [coronavirus],’ he said. 
‘PPE is being rationed at every level of distribution as the world faces a global shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic, exacerbated by the bushfire crisis in Australia.
‘While the Government is working hard to source more supplies, it is important that we conserve the stocks we have so that we can respond no matter what happens overseas.’
Professor Murphy said priority would be placed on ensuring PPE for ‘first responders’, and that the Government is expecting some additional masks will arrive by the end of April.
Governments at all levels have imposed further restrictions aimed at enforcing social distancing, with many states and territories shutting down non-essential activity and border crossings.
According to Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, most new diagnoses of coronavirus are still related to returning travellers but it may take up to two weeks for the increased travel restrictions to reduce travel-related cases.
A staged lockdown process, beginning with a shutdown of ‘principal places of social gathering’, has been instituted by the Federal Government, while most states and territories have taken additional measures.
Venues now closed include registered and licensed clubs, entertainment venues, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, indoor sports venues and places of worship. Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway only, and Prime Minister Morrison said Australians should expect these measures to be in place for at least six months.
‘Australians are very concerned at this difficult time. It is the understandable fear of the unknown and there is much that is not known about the coronavirus, but we must not let that fear overtake us,’ he said.
‘We must focus instead on what we do know, what we can control.’
Prime Minister Morrison said the new measures had to be taken because Australians are not adequately following rules around social distancing and the virus is continuing to spread.
State and territory leaders and Prime Minister Morrison have recommended against all non-essential domestic travel, following the unprecedented ban on international travel.
The number of cases continues to double every four days , with the national total approaching 1650 at the time of publication on 23 March.
Victorian and ACT school holidays have been brought forward to 24 March as states and territories across Australia move to shut down non-essential services.
The ACT’s shutdown was precipitated by a jump in its number of confirmed cases, with its total more than doubling from nine to 20 over a 24-hour period.
A dedicated taskforce of 500 police officers will enforce Victoria’s coronavirus shutdown of non-essential services and self-isolation of travellers, with pubs, clubs, Crown Casino and schools set to close for at least three weeks.
However, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said assistance will be created for essential service employees, including those in healthcare, who will have children home from school.
‘There will be some people who can’t be home looking after their kids because they’ve got patients to treat, critical functions to perform. We’ll put in place arrangements,’ he said.
Premier Andrews said schools closing would put understandable strain on many families, but it was better to have medical staff away from hospital now than in the future ‘when we have many thousands of people needing care’.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also encouraged parents to keep their children at home, but schools there will remain open for now, despite the state shutting down all other non-essential services.
Elsewhere, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are imposing two-week quarantine periods on people seeking to enter these states, with police checkpoints posted to monitor travellers.
The SA Government has declared a ‘major emergency’ and announced it will establish 12 border crossings where travellers will be required to sign a declaration about their health and ability to undertake mandatory self-isolation for two weeks.
Those measures will come into effect from 4.00 pm Tuesday 24 March. SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens will be installed as the state coordinator who will ‘assume all major responsibilities under the Emergency Management Act’.
WA Premier Mark McGowan has announced entry to his state would be restricted via road, rail, air and sea from 1.30 pm local time on Tuesday 24 March, with exemptions only made for health, emergency, defence and policing personnel, certain mining industry workers, flight crews, essential goods deliverers and on compassionate grounds.
Unless exempted, arrivals from interstate will be ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. Premier McGowan also announced popular tourist destination Rottnest Island is being ‘actively’ investigated as a quarantine zone.
Schools are expected to remain open in Queensland for the time being, despite a one-day record number of cases and the threat of teacher strikes. It will also move to enact border controls, in line with other states and territories, in the next few days.
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus, including self-isolation, available on its website.
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