Victoria embarks on testing blitz in order to ease restrictions

Victoria embarks on testing blitz in order to ease restrictions

Covid-19 restrictions could be eased over the next two weeks if Victorians take part in a major testing blitz across the state.

Over the next fortnight Premier Daniel Andrews hopes up to 10,000 Victorians will be tested to better understand how the virus is spreading through the community.

This testing regime will better inform the government as they look to ease gathering restrictions on 11 May.

The mass-testing will be carried out through a combination of drive-through and walk-up clinics, as well as new mobile screening clinics to visit homes and workplaces.

Virtually anyone displaying any of the many symptoms of Covid-19 including fever, breathing difficulties, a cough, a sore throat, fatigue, tiredness, or loss of smell should go and get tested.

"We've asked a lot of Victorians, but the plan we put in place to slow the spread of this virus is working," says Andrews.

"And if we keep working together and keep doing the right thing, we will get to the other side of this crisis."

"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."

The State Government will first target industries that are still operating at full capacity including healthcare workers, aged care workers, construction workers, supermarket staff and those in the agriculture industry.

Workers without symptoms in hospitals and other facilities with vulnerable residents will also be asked to partake in the voluntary program as part of new research in line with pre-requisites set out by the National Cabinet.

The widespread testing of individuals will be used alongside wastewater testing, where the levels of coronavirus in sewage will be tracked to help anticipate or rapidly respond to local outbreaks.

More than 104,000 Victorians have been tested to date.

The testing bonanza comes as Victoria reports 1,349 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

There are 6,719 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Australia in total, with 3,004 in NSW, 1,033 in QLD, 549 in WA, 438 in SA, 212 in TAS, 106 in the ACT, and 28 in the NT.

Restrictions to be eased in WA and QLD

Over the weekend the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland announced they would be easing back on restrictions in the coming weeks.

WA Premier Mark McGowan yesterday announced gathering restrictions in the state would be relaxed, including allowing indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people.

Further, in good news for the WA housing sector, open homes and display villages will be allowed from today under strict health controls.

Playgrounds, skateparks and outdoor gym equipment will continue to be restricted in WA, but the state is moving public transport back to normal timetables this week.

Yesterday Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also announced some restrictions will be eased this coming weekend, though on a smaller scale to those announced in WA.

From midnight on Friday Queenslanders will be allowed to go for a drive within 50 kilometres of their home.

Some national parks will reopen, families will be able to go on picnics together if they are members of the same household, and shopping for non-essential items like clothes and shoes will be allowed.

They are small changes but represent a little win in Queensland in the fight against Covid-19.

COVIDSafe app launched

The Federal Government launched its Covid-19 tracking app COVIDSafe last night as part of its 'third wave' response to the coronavirus public health crisis.

The app will speed up the process of identifying people who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus, stopping further spread of the virus in the community.

The app uses Bluetooth to connect with other phones that have the COVIDSafe app installed.

To be effective users should have the app running in the background when coming into contact with others and Bluetooth must be turned on.

"It then securely makes a 'digital handshake', which notes the date and time, distance and duration of the contact," Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said.

"All information collected by the app is securely encrypted and stored in the app on the user's phone. No one, not even the user, can access it.

"Unless and until a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, no contact information collected in the app is disclosed or able to be accessed. Then, once the person agrees and uploads the data, only the relevant state or territory public health officials will have access to information. The only information they are allowed to access is that of close contacts when a person has come within approximately 1.5 metres of another app user for 15 minutes or more in their jurisdiction."

Updated at 12:06pm AEST on 27 April 2020.

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