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An expansion of COVID-19 testing in Canberra will happen from Monday due to a recent drop in demand for testing of returned travellers and close contacts of already confirmed cases.

There is an update to this story; the ACT has recorded our second death to COVID-19.

COVID-19 testing criteria in Canberra will expand from Monday, with ACT Health announcing a “random” number of Canberrans, who would otherwise not qualify, will be tested at the Weston Walk-in Centre and the drive-through testing station at EPIC.

ACT Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said the expansion has come about due to a recent drop in demand for testing of returned travellers and close contacts of already confirmed cases.

“We have already been watching closely the test results from members of the community who have no history of overseas travel or contact with known confirmed cases.

“This includes tests of symptomatic healthcare and aged-care workers, as well as people who live and work in high-risk settings.

“Given we have not seen community transmission in these groups, we are confident that the physical distancing and increased hygiene measures are helping slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” she said.

COVID-19 testing will expand to a random sampling of the population that is symptomatic, but do not meet the other criteria of having returned from overseas travel, having confirmed contact with a known case, or being in a congregate living environment, or in hospital with an acute respiratory illness or fever.

Dr Coleman said the random testing will help ACT Health gain insight into the effectiveness of community efforts to flatten the curve.

“The fact that we have a less than 2% positive from our testing means that we are picking up a lot of the mild cases of COVID-19 that are being missed in other countries that aren’t undertaking such extensive testing,” Dr Coleman said.

For several days, ACT Health’s contact tracing team have been investigating a case where a source of transmission has still not been identified.

“What has actually taken us a little while is to reinterview all of the close contacts, family members, and people who are cases who live in the area around this person,” Dr Coleman said.

Given the circumstances around this case, it’s expected the investigation will continue into next week.

For the time being, this case will be identified as local transmission with an unknown source.

Dr Coleman said there could still be a way to go before we see evidence of community transmission in the ACT.

“Canberrans are being absolutely excellent in terms of isolation and quarantining, and now the evidence I’ve seen of social distancing.

“These things are the things that are going to really slow down that spread.”

Overnight, there have been four new confirmed ACT cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the ACT’s total to 91. 

The new cases consist of two males and two females, aged between 31 and 59. Two of the new cases are linked to overseas travel, and two are contacts of previous confirmed cases.

There are currently nine COVID-19 patients in Canberra hospitals, with two patients in ICU.

A total of 18 cases have recovered from COVID-19 and have been released from self-isolation. The rest are isolating at home with ACT Health support.

There have been over 5,000 negative COVID-19 tests in the ACT to date.

The ACT Government’s new dedicated COVID-19 website contains more information about the health and economic response to the pandemic in the ACT.  

People can also call the Australian Government’s 24-hour Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

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