‘So many sick people in that line’: I need a COVID test but can’t get one. Now what?


Queensland's COVID-19 testing clinics are so overwhelmed, many people are being turned away without getting swabbed, while others are going to extreme lengths to get tested to protect family members, satisfy work and childcare requirements, or to have elective surgery. 

Key points:

  • You should get a rapid antigen test if you need to leave home quarantine or have been around other people with COVID-19
  • People with a positive RAT and mild symptoms will now not be required to line up for a PCR test
  • You should only get a PCR test if you have respiratory symptoms, a positive RAT, or if you live with people who have COVID-19

Some social media sites are awash with stories of frustrated Queenslanders waiting in queues for up to seven hours and tales of people lining up as early as 2:30am to try and beat the crowds for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

Nicola and Kyron Miethke — who have two small children; two-year-old Freya and four-month-old Mack — searched for a drive-through testing site after Kyron developed symptoms on Monday.

Mr Miethke, 36, tested positive on a rapid antigen test but needed to access a laboratory test for work reasons before National Cabinet late yesterday slashed the COVID testing requirements to ease pressure on the system.

Under the changes, people with a positive rapid antigen test will not be required to line up for laboratory testing.

The Miethkes drove to the MedLab testing clinic at Newmarket in Brisbane yesterday, arriving just after 7:30am, and queued for three hours before police told them to go home.

"We can't do anything but the drive-through option because we have two small children," Ms Miethke said.

"It was just a nightmare — we just feel so let down — people are having to suffer through this.

"I can only imagine they're going to change the rules in a few days' time and say rapid antigen tests are enough to say that you've got it."

Social media sites are awash with stories of frustrated Queenslanders waiting in queues for up to seven hours for PCR tests.(ABC News: Nibir Khan )'So many sick people in that line'

Hospitality worker Mark Miot began developing COVID-19 symptoms early this week.

He tested positive on a rapid antigen test on Tuesday and spent hours driving to several clinics while feeling unwell, trying to confirm the result with a PCR laboratory test, but most were closed.

The 43-year-old lined up at the Prince Charles Hospital on Brisbane's northside from 12:15pm but was turned away more than three hours later.

Mr Miot, who is fully vaccinated, needed a PCR laboratory test for work, but also to be able to see his children.

His 13-year-old daughter has epilepsy and he wants to ensure he is negative to prevent any risk of passing the virus to her.

He finally accessed a test after lining up for more than five hours yesterday at Redcliffe Hospital, north of Brisbane.

"There were so many sick people in that line — it was crazy, absolutely crazy," he said.

"It rained a little bit and then people were getting so upset that they'd waited so long, that they left."

Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced major changes to COVID-19 testing arrangements, wiping the requirement for a PCR.(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

Mr Miot, who believes he has the virus, has made a booking at the Health Hub at Morayfield, north of Brisbane, for another test on Monday to ensure he is negative before seeing his daughters, who live with their mother.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced major changes to COVID-19 testing arrangements, wiping the requirement for a PCR test, which can only be performed in a laboratory, if someone first tests positive on a rapid antigen test.

Queenslanders want to 'do the right thing'

The Los family, who live on the Sunshine Coast, developed mild symptoms a couple of days ago before finding out they had been in contact with someone who had tested positive.

"We are — not under the definition that the government gives — a close contact, but what we would deem a close contact in that we hung out with someone for the majority of the day who has tested positive to COVID," Michael Los said.

Mr Los, his wife Maddie and son Hamish have spent the last two days unsuccessfully searching for rapid antigen tests.

"We had actually bought some a couple of weeks ago when the borders opened," he said.

"My wife's family came up from Sydney and so we just wanted to have some to be sure.

"I've kind of had a bit of a sore throat and so we actually have used them all and now we need them and we don't have them, which is really frustrating and I wish I hadn't wasted it on a sore throat."

Michael and Maddie Los, with son Hamish, have spent the last two days unsuccessfully searching for rapid antigen tests.(ABC News: Elizabeth Cramsie)

Mr Los said it was difficult for people who were trying to do the right thing by their communities.

"Do we, with our son who is nearly two, can we legitimately sit in a car for six hours — I just don't think it's really an option," he said.

"It's a moral conundrum, I guess — we want to get tested and do the right thing.

"We've done the right thing throughout the whole pandemic.

"Our son was born the week of the lockdown, he came home and then a few days later Scott Morrison called a lockdown, so this whole time we've been really avid in trying to do this properly and trying to do the right thing."

'I just about cried'

Even families with older children and access to health service priority testing are finding it difficult.

When Kath Angus's children developed symptoms on New Year's Day, she opted for the staff priority line that would reopen the following day, but they still waited in line for two hours.

"My 11-year-old was quite unwell through this time — she had a fever, she had paracetamol which had brought it down a little bit — but she still just wanted to be rugged up in a blanket and lying down, so she slept on the asphalt, she slept on the grass, she slept in a chair, she slept on some carpet — once we were inside."

Kath Angus's 11-year-old daughter was so unwell she needed to lay on the pavement while waiting in the queue for a COVID-19 test.(Supplied: Kath Angus)

After an hour and fifteen minutes in the queue, Ms Angus was told that particular site would not test children under 12.

"I just about cried and said I didn't know and I knew I had to be tested as well because I have worked with a COVID-positive patient recently and so they put us through to the front of the line as priority because my daughter was so unwell," she said.

Within 24 hours they were notified that while Ms Angus was negative, both her children were positive — just a week away from being able to receive their first dose of the vaccine.

Both of Kath Angus's children were positive, just a week away from being able to receive their first dose of the vaccine.(Supplied: Kath Angus)

"[It] really does break my heart, particularly because as a healthcare worker, I'm triple vaccinated and I didn't get it and they've got nothing and they have got it and been unwell.

"I have a really heavy heart that they weren't protected as well as they could've been."

When to get tested?

Queensland Health said people should get a rapid antigen test for two reasons — if you need to leave home quarantine or if you have been around other people with COVID-19.

People should only get a PCR test if they had respiratory symptoms, had a positive rapid antigen test or if people in their home had COVID-19.

Under the changes, people with a positive rapid antigen test will not be required to line up for a PCR laboratory test.(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news




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