Current Issue #488

South Australia to widen COVID-19 testing net to target community transmission

Mild symptoms shown by cases linked to the Adelaide Airport cluster have influenced the decision to widen the scope of testing

The state government has announced a fortnight-long ‘blitz’ of testing aimed at identifying the extent of the virus present in the wider South Australian community.

Until now, South Australia’s COVID-19 testing regime has been restricted to people meeting a certain threshold of risk – those who have recently returned from interstate or overseas, have visited key outbreak areas such as the Barossa Valley, or have been identified as coming into contact with other confirmed cases as part of contact tracing measures.

Concerns about a global shortage of testing kits drove this limited approach, but with South Australia’s stockpile of tests now numbering at 45,000 those concerns have for the moment subsided according to SA Health.

From today, that net will be widened to anyone in the community exhibiting symptoms associated with the virus – fever, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath – that are not linked to other conditions. For the next two weeks, anyone exhibiting such symptoms are advised to contact their GP or visit one of South Australia’s COVID-19 clinics.

“Our experience with the Adelaide Airport cluster and evaluation of similar clusters interstate is that some of the cases we identified had quite mild symptoms,” SA Health’s Chief Public Health Officer Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier said.

“Although our expertise in contact tracing is world-class, we want to ensure that absolutely every case of COVID-19 in South Australia is identified to provide the best protection to individuals, their families, friends and the community.

“Over the next two weeks, any South Australian who has a fever or respiratory symptoms consistent with coronavirus, no matter how mild, is welcome to attend one of our COVID-19 clinics, or their GP, for assessment and testing.”

While South Australia’s testing regime – which has so far tested 34,000 people with a positive test rate of 1.3 per cent – has been a national leader on a per capita basis, the strict criteria applied to candidates for testing has given rise to concerns that the true extent of community transmission – cases which cannot be easily linked to returned travellers or other known cases – may not be reflected in our otherwise encouraging numbers. Perhaps in two weeks we may have a better picture.

As of Wednesday 15 April there have been a total of 433 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Australia, with no new cases reported on Wednesday. Of that tally, 279 have officially been cleared of the virus. Readers are advised to consult SA Health’s website for the latest information.

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer and editor living on Kaurna Country.

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