Vic ramps up COVID-19 testing while other states ease restrictions

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday April 28, 2020

COVID-19

Victoria hopes to test up to 100,000 people for coronavirus over the next two weeks in preparation for the potential easing of restrictions, while the Northern Territory and New South Wales will begin lifting measures this week.

The announcements have come shortly after Western Australia and Queensland revealed their plans to relax restrictions on the public.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday said the testing blitz would be carried out through a combination of drive-through and walk-up clinics, as well as mobile screening clinics to visit homes and workplaces.

More testing clinics would be opened during the week in regional and rural Victoria — including in Gippsland and Northern Loddon — adding to the 43 existing specialist testing sites across the state.

Workers from industries that have been operating at full capacity would be targeted for testing, including those in healthcare, aged care, construction, supermarkets, and agriculture. Andrews noted workers without symptoms in hospitals and other facilities with vulnerable residents would be asked to volunteer for sample testing as part of new research.

“By increasing the testing for coronavirus and widening the testing criteria, it gives us more evidence and therefore more options when it comes to slowly lifting restrictions,” he said.

More than 104,000 Victorians have been tested to date. Andrews said any decisions to ease restrictions after the State of Emergency — set to be reviewed on May 11 — would be informed by public health experts, modelling, and “international experience”.

NSW, NT, QLD, WA to relax

On Tuesday morning NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said groups of two adults would be allowed to visit other households as of Friday this week.

Also on Friday, people in the NT would be permitted to swim and even camp in some of the territory’s parks and reserves, Chief Minister Michael Gunner told the ABC.

The move would not extend to the Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks —  which are managed by the federal government — or to the park restrictions in regional parts of the NT.

He said this was “the first significant step we are taking to adjust our coronavirus-related restrictions”, but added park rangers and police would be out and about to ensure people continue to practice social distancing.

On Sunday Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced some restrictions would be lifted from May 2. People would be free to have picnics with their housemates, to travel within 50 kilometres of their home, and to undertake some non-essential shopping. Some national parks in Queensland would also reopen.

Western Australians as of this week can hold gatherings in groups of up to 10 people.

Premier Mark McGowan on the weekend said non-contact recreational activities including picnics in the park, fishing, boating, hiking or camping would also resume.

“I stress this must only occur in compliance with travel restrictions and a 10 person rule,” he added.

Public playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor gym equipment would remain closed.

‘Not a race’ for ACT

Meanwhile, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has said he would not be rushing into lifting restrictions.

“This is not a race or a contest between jurisdictions,” he said on Monday.

“We are in a great position here in the ACT, largely thanks to the great community effort in complying with the rules around physical distancing.

“However, we have seen around the world what can happen when restrictions are imposed too late or taken away too early.”

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