Pivot on COVID test rules as demand swells

Dominic Giannini |

Long queues for COVID-19 testing may shorten ahead of the new year with states changing their requirements to cope with demand.

Queensland has scrapped the requirement for interstate travellers to get a PCR test on day five after only 0.6 per cent of results were positive for the virus, from tens of thousands of swabs.

But the requirement for a negative PCR test to enter the state remains, with a switch to allowing rapid antigen tests not expected before the new year. 

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is urging the Queensland government to remove tests for people who are not unwell.

“This is not the right approach. It is clogging up the system. It is putting people in lengthy queues that are not necessary,” he said.

“There are people getting tests who don’t have any symptoms, are not feeling unwell, that are required to get tests and taking the place of people who are unwell or who are required to get a test from NSW Health.”

People in NSW and the ACT have queued for hours, with some testing clinics hitting capacity early in the morning as demand is heightened by those wanting to travel.

The ACT had to reopen a fourth testing centre to meet demand after three centres hit capacity early on Tuesday morning and some sites had wait times of more than four hours.

The ACT is now downgrading its advice for many locations identified as casual exposure sites to ‘monitor for symptoms’, in response to increased COVID-19 in the community and testing demand.

The downgrading of advice means asymptomatic people do not need to quarantine and are not required to take a COVID-19 test.

NSW also changed isolation requirements for healthcare staff, meaning they can return to work seven days sooner.

It came after 2000 of the state’s healthcare workers were furloughed and the number COVID- 19 hospital patients doubled in the past week.

NSW recorded 6062 infections on Tuesday, down 172 on the day before, and reported one death.

Victoria saw a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections with 2738 cases and four deaths reported.

Queensland case numbers also surged past 1000 for the first time with 1158 reported, while South Australia hit a new daily record of 995 infections.

There were 252 cases in the ACT, 43 in Tasmania, 16 in the Northern Territory and none in Western Australia.