The state’s first distribution center for rapid antigen testing will offer two free tests to those deemed to be in close contact with COVID cases.
The free tests are not available to the general public.
Close contacts who receive a free RAT at the Southern Park site will be asked to enter their results into SA Health’s system.
Health Secretary Stephen Wade said more distribution sites would come online “in the coming week”.
“Now is the time to move from RATs as a monitoring tool to a diagnostic tool in their own right,” he told ABC Radio this morning.
“Starting tomorrow, people can get a RAT test if they are in close contact and the RAT test itself will be confirmation of their COVID status.”
Prime Minister Steven Marshall will provide more details about the center this afternoon and reveal South Australia’s case numbers at a press conference at 1pm.
Wade insisted that the shift to distributing RAT tests is “not being driven by the” [testing] system can’t handle it”, saying the ongoing delays at the PCR testing sites in South Australia “do not look like the interstate”.
However, he admitted that there will likely be early problems with the RAT distribution center as it responds to the rising demand for testing.
“I fully expect there will be teething problems — it’s very difficult to predict demand,” he said.
“We are very eager to respond, but we ask the community to be patient.”
South Australia currently manages more than 30,300 active COVID-19 cases, although only 2,921 cases were reported on Tuesday – a three-day drop from more than 4,000 infections.
However, the number of tests conducted on Monday also fell to 18,433, as the warm weather forced the closure of several metropolitan testing sites.
Monday marked only the second time this year that the state’s daily test count has fallen below 20,000.
Labor today called on the state government to make reporting of RAT results mandatory, as has been done in New South Wales and Victoria.
“If we don’t have an accurate picture of COVID cases — including where people test positive for rapid antigen tests — we won’t know where they contracted it and who might have close contacts, making it very difficult to limit the spread of the virus. virus,” said shadow treasury spokesman Stephen Mullighan.
“If people don’t have to report positive results, SA Health doesn’t know who has it and if they’re getting the health care they need.”
Wade, asked if the lower rate of testing provided an inaccurate picture, said the number of people hospitalized with the virus “is in line with the level of disease suggested by the testing regimen.”
SA’s COVID hospital admissions rose from 188 to 211 people on Tuesday, forcing the state government to make further changes to free up bed capacity in the state’s public hospitals.
Some non-COVID patients in public hospitals will be transferred to private wards for treatment and surgery, while Lyell McEwin and Flinders Medical Center are now each preparing to host 100 special hospital beds for COVID patients.
The Royal Adelaide Hospital will also make changes to the patient flow to increase the COVID bed capacity from 200 to 300 beds. It comes on top of a temporary suspension of “non-emergency” elective surgery announced last month.
The state government says local health networks are now conducting “detailed planning” to determine which services and beds can be moved to other locations to free up capacity, with the overall changes culminating in 500 additional dedicated COVID beds and 60 ICU spots .
There are currently 22 people in intensive care and four on ventilators in South Australia. There have been 15 COVID-positive deaths during the Omicron outbreak in the state.
Wade said the Omicron outbreak — which has not yet peaked — had exceeded the state’s hospital capacity modeling targeting the Delta variant.
“With regard to Delta, we expected the Royal Adelaide Hospital to be the COVID-positive dedicated hospital with approximately 200 clinical capacity,” he said.
“But with the updated Omicron plan, we will significantly use three of the tertiary hospitals – the RAH, Lyell McEwin and Flinders Medical Center – for adults, with a total of 500 beds.
“That’s made possible through our partnership with the private hospitals. We stopped non-emergency surgeries a few weeks ago so we can tap into their clinical capacity.”
The health minister said he is now “very confident” that the new plan will meet expected hospital requirements at the height of the outbreak.
42 COVID deaths in NSW and Victoria
South Australia’s plan to increase capacity in its COVID wards has come with increasing pressure on public hospitals in New South Wales and Victoria.
A total of 42 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in the two jurisdictions today — 21 in each state.
Victoria reported 40,127 new infections overnight and currently manages just under 210,000 active cases.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus in Victoria has risen from 861 to 946, with 112 people in the ICU and 31 needing ventilators.
Nearly 4,000 hospital workers and 442 Ambulance Victoria workers were unable to work Monday due to contracting COVID-19 or due to close contact with positive cases.
On Tuesday, Ambulance Victoria issued its second code red alert in a week due to the “extremely high demand for ambulances” in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, in NSW, 2,242 people with the virus are in hospital, 175 of whom are in intensive care.
The state registered 34,759 cases of 134,411 PCR tests on Tuesday, meaning one in four people tested had a positive result, although authorities suspect the true number of infections may be higher with positive rapid antigen tests not included in the numbers.
In response, the NSW government announced today that residents must now report any positive results they receive from a rapid test.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the change to the testing regimen is not just about tracking numbers, but also ensuring NSW Health understands who has underlying conditions and may need more care.
As of Wednesday, residents aged 16 and over have 24 hours to report their positive results to authorities via the ServiceNSW app or website.
“The app is seamless… it only takes a few minutes,” said Perrottet.
Residents must report any positive result unless they have tested positive on a PCR test within the past four weeks.
They will also have to indicate whether they have underlying conditions.
The fine in NSW for failing to register the result is a $1000 fine, with enforcement as of January 19.
– with AAP
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