97,000 virus testing kits sent to Australia
Almost 100,000 additional coronavirus testing kits have been sent to Australia to boost stock levels after thousands of people checked to see whether they were in the clear.
"Importantly, we have now had 81,000 tests for about a 0.5 per cent positive rate and we have just secured an additional 97,000 test kits, the first half of which arrived in the country late last night and will be distributed today," Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Today.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 450 cases of the respiratory disease had been confirmed in Australia.
The outbreak began in Wuhan, China, however Europe is now considered the global epicentre of the novel coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19.
Mr Hunt said the government wants to ensure Australia has one of the highest testing rates in the world given the "extraordinary" number of tests carried out so far.
"But we want to make sure that it is focused on those people who are most likely, as you can see, 99.95 per cent of tests have shown to be negative," he said.
"Some of the key things are, if you have travelled overseas, if you have been in contact with somebody who has been diagnosed, and you have symptoms, that is the group that we want to focus on."
You will only be tested for #COVID19 if you develop a respiratory illness and:— Australian Government Department of Health (@healthgovau) March 17, 2020
- returned from overseas, or have been in close contact with a confirmed case, in the past 14 days
- are a healthcare worker, with a fever, who works directly with patients.https://t.co/JD5gXxL1X5 pic.twitter.com/GW5nin9nzE
Mr Hunt said, at present, "few countries have conducted more tests than Australia".
"It is absolutely appropriate to be focusing on those that are most at need. What we are doing is aiming to protect the vulnerable."
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'TEST, TEST, TEST'
The World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier this week called for countries to test every suspected case of COVID-19.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a virtual press conference from the UN agency's headquarters in Geneva, warned that as cases were soaring "we have not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the response".
The WHO, he said, was urging countries to: "Test, test, test. Test every suspected case."
We have a simple message for all countries fighting #COVID19: test, test, test.— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 16, 2020
The most effective way to prevent #coronavirus infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that, you must test and isolate. https://t.co/cOOs5wMCZE
He hailed the surging production in tests to meet the global demand and noted that the WHO had shipped nearly 1.5 million tests to 120 countries to help those most in need.
"WHO advises that all confirmed cases, even mild cases, should be isolated in health facilities to prevent transmission and provide adequate care," Mr Ghebreyesus said.
He acknowledged, though, that many countries had already exceeded their capacity to care for mild cases and urged those countries to prioritise older patients and those with underlying health conditions, while others could be isolated at home.
- with AFP