The ‘problem’ with testing random Aussies
Australia's deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth says random testing is not the answer to controlling coronavirus.
Dr Coatsworth said there were now 6746 cases across Australia, with only eight new cases recorded in the past 24 hours.
"There have been 90 deaths due to coronavirus, and in our intensive cares at the moment, there are 36 patients with coronavirus, and 25 of those are having their breathing supported with a ventilator," Dr Coatsworth told Today on Thursday morning.
But he said the idea of testing random members of the public was not a way to bring the virus under more control in Australia.
"Random testing of the public, while it may seem a good idea, does have problems associated with it," he said.
"If you test very, very large numbers of people, you can get what's called false positives, so results where the person didn't actually have the virus.
"Where we test people with no symptoms, in the first instance, it is more likely to be in areas where we know there might be transmission - so, in the health care, the residential aged care setting we have just spoken about.
"But really what we want people to do at the moment is if they have got symptoms, any symptoms of a cold, go and get a test. That's the first priority at this point in time."
FEARS OF SECOND WAVE
Dr Coatsworth also said Australia needed to be cautious of a second wave of cases.
"We have to sort of temper ourselves a little bit, and take things in a very slow and cautious way, which is what we are doing," he said.
We have lifted some of the restrictions on elective surgery, the Prime Minister has clearly signalled that in mid-May, we are going to look at restricting some other restrictions on a National basis.
"States have already gone down that path based on their local circumstance. But one common feature is that things are slow, things are cautious, because we - we don't want a second wave. "The important thing, though, is if we do get an increase in the number of cases, and it is possible there could be a slight rise, that we have the intensive care capacity to deliver care to Australians if and when they need it."
Australia's health authorities are confident the country can fight off a potential second wave of coronavirus when restrictions are eased.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders in mid-May as crucial to lifting some social and economic clamps.
Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly says if outbreaks occur, Australia will have a detailed response to deal with the disease.
"If a second wave does occur, we'll deal with it quickly and we'll respond to it," he said.
Infection rates have grown overseas after strict lockdown measures were lifted, with Germany the latest example after easing rules last week.
But Mr Morrison is adamant Australia can lift restrictions in a safe way.
"Of course, there will be outbreaks. That is what living with the virus will be like," he said.
"That is why the protections that we put in place for a COVID-safe Australia are so important."
Testing, contract tracing and quick, effective responses to outbreaks are considered key benchmarks in edging back towards normal life.
There are 10 million new testing kits set to flood into Australia, giving authorities scope to screen people in a targeted but more widespread way.
The COVIDSafe tracing app has been downloaded by almost three million Australians, putting it on course to achieve an effective take-up rate.
Health authorities are also confident there is capacity within intensive care units to treat outbreaks of the disease.
Professor Kelly said it was likely rules would be eased in the lead-up to May 11, a key date for reviewing bigger restrictions.
"There will be many announcements about changes in the way we'll be living our lives and hopefully getting back to some sort of new normality in living in a COVID-19-safe society," he said.
Australia's death toll sits at 90 after a 12th Newmarch House resident succumbed to the virus on Wednesday.
More than 5600 of the 6746 people diagnosed with coronavirus nationally have recovered.
The national cabinet will meet on Friday to nut out guidelines for elite and community sport to return as debate continues over the AFL and NRL restarting. The meeting of state and federal leaders will also look at the expanded testing regime to be conducted with the new kits.
- With AAP
Originally published as The 'problem' with testing random Aussies