Testing for COVID-19 will soon be expanded even further with people showing no symptoms to be swabbed for the virus.
It comes as leaders start laying the groundwork for further easing of restrictions across the country in coming weeks.
States have already announced a significant boost in testing with anyone showing any signs of respiratory illness urged to get tested.
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Now, even those with no signs of illness will soon be encouraged to get tested to ensure large numbers of cases aren’t being missed.
“We don’t think we are missing significant numbers of cases in Australia, but if we are going to consider at the national cabinet in a few weeks time any relaxation of distancing measures, we have to be so well-prepared,” Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said on Monday.
Doctors and nurses with no symptoms will be among those targeted for testing.
“A high priority would be health workers because they are at the front line, they are the people probably most likely to see cases and they are very representative of the community,” Professor Murphy said.
“We’ve had talks with leading professional bodies, the AMA, the ANMF and others and they support what we call sensible testing. You can’t test everybody. There are 300,000 nurses in Australia. You would test people on what we call a sampling or sentinel basis.”
Young adults, seen as the most likely to spread the virus will also be among those to be targeted for testing.
But Professor Murphy says there would be little value doing widespread testing of children or the elderly.
The number of cases in Australia now stands at 6720, with the death toll at 83.
A total of 113 people are in hospital across the country with 43 of those in intensive care and 27 on ventilators.
Professor Murphy says our trend of low cases numbers is continuing.
“Over the last week we have certainly seen daily numbers that were significantly lower than the previous week, but as I have said on many occasions, the fact we are still picking up new cases means that we obviously cannot be complacent.”
Professor Murphy says despite the low numbers, social distancing will be the new norm.
“Even if we release restrictions in the future, people need to change the way they interact permanently, and in the sensible way, like keeping distance from each other, hand hygiene, probably not permanently not shaking hands, but for the foreseeable future.
“If we are going to relax these distancing measures, the things we have closed, we have to change how we interact as human beings until we are through with this virus.”