Testing Times


Western District Health Service (WDHS) Chief Executive, Rohan Fitzgerald said the risk of COVID-19 was ongoing and individual accountability and action were the community’s best defence against the virus.

“Although it might seem like we can begin to relax, the experience interstate and overseas tells us that we need to continue to take precautions and get tested as soon as symptoms appear.

We all want life to return to normal, but we need to remain vigilant if we want to enjoy greater freedoms over the next few months,” he said.

Since the pandemic was declared in March, WDHS has conducted nearly 5,000 COVID-19 tests, but has seen fewer numbers at its Drive-thru Clinic in recent weeks.

“In late July we were testing up to 300 people a week, but this dropped to around 120 a week by October. Monthly comparisons can be tricky however, because some of the variation can be attributed to government testing blitzes”.

Mr Fitzgerald said that with greater movement of people across the State and around the country, getting tested when showing symptoms was more critical than ever.

“It’s so important because you are taking steps to not only protect your loved ones and those who are vulnerable, but local businesses, schools and other services as well. Tests are now coming back relatively quickly and it’s the best way to safeguard our community.

If you have symptoms, please don’t go shopping, or to a party, or duck down to the pub for a beer with your mates. This is something everyone needs to be mindful of, as we head into a particularly busy period, where we traditionally relax and let our hair down.

It’s so important that we all remain cautious and continue doing the things that have served us so well throughout the pandemic –social distancing, hand hygiene, wearing masks and getting tested.

Mr Fitzgerald said the outbreak in South Australia had led to an increase in sewage testing in Hamilton and Portland, resulting in the identification of COVID-19 fragments in untreated waste water in Portland.

“Although this is concerning, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a new case in Portland. The fragments could be from a previous known case. It does however highlight that the virus can appear anywhere at any time.  

In response to the sewage testing results, Portland District Health has expanded its testing facilities this week, and Mr Fitzgerald says if the need arises, WDHS is also prepared.

“WDHS has been developing contingency plans to respond to a range of scenarios that may arise during the pandemic. One of the scenarios anticipated is an increase in the number of people needing to get tested if we have a local positive case or result from the sewage testing program.

In the event that we need to dramatically increase our testing capacity, we are ready. We have the IT and infrastructure on standby to set up a clinic at the Hamilton Showgrounds within hours,” Mr Fitzgerald said

The Hamilton Base Hospital Drive-thru Clinic is currently open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 12pm.

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