‘Victims of our own success’: Why Qld’s COVID-19 testing rate has fallen

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Queensland’s COVID-19 testing rate, considered crucial to controlling the pandemic, has fluctuated significantly in the 95 days since Queensland’s first case.

But the Health Minister says the latest dip is the result of the state’s “fortunate position”, as low numbers of both coronavirus and flu patients mean there are only so many people with respiratory symptoms who qualify for testing.

Queensland recorded one new COVID-19 case on Sunday, taking the state total to 1035 and the week’s figure to six. The state’s recovery rate was 94.3 per cent with 976 recovered patients.

Mr Miles said 46 of the state’s remaining 53 active cases were in south-east Queensland, while the remaining patients were in Cairns (4), Townsville (2) and Wide Bay (1).

He said the fluctuating COVID-19 test rate – which peaked at 3000 per day, dropped to a low of 1200 and most recently was sitting in the 2000s – was due to low active cases and respiratory symptoms.

“The challenge is that with very low levels of COVID-19 infection and very low levels of the flu, there is actually a very small number of Queenslanders with any respiratory symptoms and, therefore, making them eligible to be tested,” the Health Minister said.

“That’s a fortunate position to be in. In some ways in terms of that testing rate, we are victims of our own success because there’s only so many people out there we can test.

“As of last week, the Chief Health Officer [Jeannette Young] was telling me that even though COVID numbers were low, they were still higher than our flu numbers.

Despite the low number of new cases, the coronavirus was still the fastest-spreading virus and respiratory illness in Queensland for the week, Mr Miles said.

“In the last week we’re looking at only a handful of COVID-19 cases and maybe a few more than that of the flu,” he said.

“The benefit of measures we have put in place for COVID-19 has also been experienced for a wide range of viruses.”

But Mr Miles said it was not time to become complacent, adding that testing would continue to be expanded as neccesary to ensure as many cases as possible were detected as soon as possible.

Amid the slow case growth, authorities are treating every new infection extremely seriously.

Doctors are unsure how Sunday’s new COVID-19 patient, who lives in Brisbane’s south, contracted the virus, but contact tracers are hoping to identify the source on Monday.

And the single new case confirmed on Saturday triggered an urgent health warning for Qantas flight QF614 from Melbourne to Brisbane on April 22.

An infected traveller was on that flight, triggering urgent Queensland Health efforts to trace people in rows 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23. Those passengers should contact 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

“That Qantas flight was some time ago, so the level of concern is mitigated by the fact that that time has passed without necessarily seeing those cases from it,” Mr Miles said.

“We can run down every single lead. We can chase down every potential contact … People on that flight should not be unnecessarily concerned.”

On Saturday, the first day of eased COVID-19 movement restrictions, Queensland police handed out 32 fines for breaching the health regulations.

So far 1664 on-the-spot fines for COVID-19 related infringements have been issued, totalling more than $2.19 million.

Meanwhile, Mr Miles announced on Sunday that Queensland Health had purchased an extra 35 anaesthetic machines to continue to expand the state’s ICU capacity.

Content retrieved from: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/victims-of-our-own-success-why-qld-s-covid-19-testing-rate-has-fallen-20200503-p54pek.html.

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