The Victorian Government has expanded its coronavirus testing program to become the widest in the country.
Before today, only recent travellers, people they were in close contact with, and frontline essential workers were able to be tested.
But Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says the time has come to broaden the criteria to root out coronavirus cases of unknown origin.
So do you need a test? Here’s how it will work.
What symptoms do you need to be given a test?
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos says anyone with a fever or chills, any respiratory symptoms including a cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing and any other respiratory illness, will qualify for a test from today.
The biggest change is the criteria applies to everyone, and not just people who have recently travelled overseas or been in contact with someone who has contracted coronavirus.
The new testing criteria will apply to all GP and screening clinics in Victoria.
Previous testing criteria still applies, which means people who have been in close contact with a case of coronavirus and develop symptoms such as headache, myalgia, runny or stuffy nose, anosmia (loss of sense of smell), nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea, should also get a test.
Frontline essential workers including people working in child care, health care, aged care, police officers and teachers, can also be tested if they develop symptoms.
Where do I go for a test?
If you think you need to be tested call ahead to your GP or call the 24-hour public information hotline on 1800 675 398.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends calling triple zero if you have serious respiratory symptoms.
Your GP clinic will ask you about your symptoms to determine if you need to be tested.
If you do qualify for a test your doctor will give you instructions which usually include remaining in your car until someone can come outside to take a swab test.
You will need to self-isolate until your test results are ready.
You can also show up at any of the state’s screening clinics for a test. You don’t need to call ahead.
Ms Mikakos said there would be 40 clinics in Victoria. There are currently 33 coronavirus assessment centres listed on the DHHS website.
The opening times for the screening clinics differ by location so check out the relevant hospital website.
Metro Melbourne screening clinics:
- Alfred Hospital
- Austin Hospital
- Box Hill Hospital — Eastern Health
- Casey Hospital — Monash Health
- Dandenong Hospital — Monash Health
- Frankston Hospital — Peninsula Health
- Monash Medical Centre, Clayton — Monash Health
- Northern Hospital
- Royal Children’s Hospital
- Royal Melbourne Hospital — Melbourne Health
- St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne
- Sunshine Hospital — Western Health
Regional screening clinics:
- Ballarat Base Hospital — Ballarat Health Services
- Barwon Health North, Geelong — Barwon Health (please call (03) 4215 4445 prior to attending)
- Barwon Health – University Hospital Geelong (please call (03) 4215 4445 prior to attending)
- Bacchus Marsh — Djerriwarrh Health Services
- Benalla Health
- Bendigo Hospital
- Central Highlands Rural Health – Kyneton
- Echuca Hospital — Echuca Regional Health
- Maryborough District Health Service
- Melton — Djerriwarrh Health Services
- Phillip Island Health Hub — Bass Coast Health
- Portland District Health
- Shepparton Hospital — Goulburn Valley Health
- Stawell Regional Health
- Swan Hill District Health
- Wangaratta Hospital — Northeast Health
- Warrnambool — South West Healthcare (pre-call 5563 1666)
- Western District Health Services – Hamilton
- Wimmera Health Care Group – Horsham
- Wodonga Campus — Albury Wodonga Health
- Wonthaggi Hospital — Bass Coast Health
What kind of self-isolation should I be doing during this time?
If your symptoms are serious you will be sent to hospital to be isolated from other patients and for doctors to keep an eye on your condition.
If your doctor says you are well enough to go home while you wait for your test results, you should:
- self-quarantine at home and do not attend work or school
- wash your hands often with soap and water
- cough and sneeze into your elbow
- avoid cooking for or caring for other members of your household
- wear the mask your doctor gives you if you cannot avoid close contact with other people
This means you should not stop at the supermarket or the pharmacy on your way home.
Instead, ask a family member or neighbour to drop supplies at your door, or, if you don’t have anyone to do that, call the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398 and the health department will make sure a free care package is delivered to you.
Coles and Woolworths are also offering delivery to people who need priority assistance such as seniors, people with compromised immunity and people with disability.
If your test results come back positive, you must stay in self-isolation until you meet the relevant requirements. To find out what they are, call the coronavirus hotline.
What you need to know about coronavirus:
Coronavirus rapid self-testing kits are being advertised on a Chinese social media platform in Australia — promising results in as little as 15 minutes — as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Individuals, medical centres and pharmacies are the consumers being targeted by advertisers
- The Department of Health says the supply of self-tests for COVID-19 is prohibited by law
- There are concerns that the new finger-prick test could produce false negatives
Despite the Government’s latest move to loosen the criteria for testing, online sellers in the Chinese-Australian community are trying to capitalise on buyers wanting to fast-track their testing.
One Australia-based seller, who only wants to be known as Lily, runs an online business on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform with about 3 million users in Australia.
In addition to rapid COVID-19 testing kits, she also sells coveted items including surgical masks, KF94 respiratory protective masks and disinfectant sprays.
Lily told the ABC there was a huge demand in the community and she sold the kits for $59 each.
“It’s like a pregnancy test … [it takes about] 15 minutes,” she said.
“To get a test in the hospital, you have to meet certain criteria. [By using the kit at home], you don’t have to increase the risk of getting infected by going to the hospital.”
Another Australia-based seller, who only wishes to be known as Allen, told the ABC he had seen many other people selling these kits on WeChat and he was trying to bulk sell 15-minute rapid tests for COVID-19 to GP clinics and pharmacies.
He said a friend of his claimed to be working for a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved Chinese manufacturer and had approached him to open up “private channels” to expand their sales.
“I have a lot of people that have asked me about the products [after I posted the advertisement],” he said.
“If the hospital does not give you a test, there is also a risk [of being infected without knowing]. If you solely rely on the Government, there is no other way to do the test.”
However, supplying self-testing kits is illegal in Australia and is also not permitted in mainland China, and it’s unclear just how many self-test kits have been sold to buyers.
“The supply of self-tests or at-home tests for most serious infectious diseases, including self-tests for COVID-19, is prohibited under the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Purposes) Specification 2010,” a Department of Health spokesperson told the ABC.
They said the import, export, manufacture and supply of medicines or medical devices not included on the Australia Register of Therapeutic Goods could result in criminal prosecution or civil litigation if there were no specific exclusions or exemptions applied to those activities.
“Non-compliance with the regulatory scheme is being monitored and we are working closely with the Australian Border Force and other health and law enforcement agencies,” the spokesperson said.
“The TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) has and will continue to encourage reporting of potential non-compliance via the TGA website for investigation and action.”
Failing to adhere to the law could see individuals face up to five years’ imprisonment and $840,000 in fines, while businesses face up $4.2 million in fines.
The spokesperson added that Australia required “testing for serious infectious diseases to be conducted in conjunction with a healthcare professional who can provide appropriate advice and treatment if required”.
In China, at-home coronavirus test kits went viral on WeChat earlier in March, with advertisements for companies to test returning workers and those who could not access the hospital.
China’s National Medical Products Administration quickly debunked the rumours of self-testing and claimed no authorised at-home test kits were allowed.
In a statement on their website, the administration said the rapid diagnostic products for the coronavirus should “only be used as a supplementary detection indicator for suspected cases” and “for medical institutions only”.
‘Improper handling of test kits may result in public health risks’
The ABC understands there are some people trying to sell COVID-19 self-test kits in several private chatrooms on WeChat.
When asked whether she knew selling self-test kits was prohibited in Australia, Lily said she was unaware and would stop advertising them.
And despite initially saying she sold about 50 test kits a week, she later backtracked, saying she hadn’t sold any so far, but was hoping to sell about 50 a week when asked about the legality of her sales.
Allen said he was only “testing the waters” and was still talking to the manufacturer about the feasibility of importing and selling the products in Australia.
One of the self-test kits Lily sells is the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) 1gM/1gG Antibody Rapid Test, which instructs individuals to take samples of blood and then add three drops of a diluting agent for a 15-minute incubation to see the results.
The packaging in the ad shows the maker of the test kits is a company called Beijing Hotgen Biotech — however, the company’s name isn’t listed on the website of the TGA’s approved companies, therefore people should not be selling their products in Australia.
A spokesperson for Beijing Hotgen Biotech told the ABC their kits were “not suitable” for customers to self-test at home, as per China’s medical regulations.
He said the company was not aware its products were circulating in the Australian market, adding the company would look into the matter.
China’s Xinhua News Agency last month also warned Chinese citizens not to buy so called self-testing kits online, adding the “improper handling of used testing equipment may also bring public health risks”.
‘Calm heads have to prevail’
So far, the TGA has approved 19 manufacturers to legally supply COVID-19 diagnostic tests in Australia, seven of them are Chinese companies.
The regulator has expedited approval for some COVID-19 test kits that can deliver results in 15 minutes, but reiterated the supply of self-testing kits was prohibited.
Last week, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced new finger-prick tests would soon be rolled out within GP clinics in addition to the standard throat and nasal swab testing.
The Federal Government pledged $2.6 million in funding to the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity to “help maximise Australia’s capacity to test patients for the coronavirus”.
The research includes “post-market assessment of new coronavirus rapid screening tests to inform their best use”.
While many medical experts welcome the Government’s effort to push for a faster and simpler pathology test on COVID-19, there are still concerns around the efficacy of the rapid test kits in principle.
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“The question is about how effective they are, in terms of reliability, in terms of things like what we call a false negative, which is it picks up the test and it’s telling you it’s negative, but in fact it’s actually positive,” Australian Medical Association South Australia president Chris Moy said.
“Obviously every one of those that you get wrong is going to cause a serious problem, particularly a false negative.”
He said these were all new tests and even the current swabbing had a false negative rate.
“We are happy that we are starting to see innovation in technology, but everybody wants to sell you something at the moment in the current climate,” Dr Moy said.
“Cool heads and calm heads have to prevail, ensuring these tests are going to be of benefit, not actually causing us more problems in the end.”
Dr Moy said the risk associated with a finger prick test was relatively low, but mishandling of the used sharps could pose potential problems.
A billion-dollar industry
Whether it’s parents furious over baby formula shortages or military personnel loading boxes onto Chinese warships — chances are you’ve crossed paths with a trading phenomenon that’s shaken businesses around the country.
Seller Lily, prior to telling the ABC she would stop advertising the product, said the test results were all for reference, but that “the final say is still with the hospital”.
In a statement to the ABC, Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, said the platform encouraged users to report any suspicious or illegal behaviour on WeChat.
“Tencent does not permit our platforms, products or services to be used for any illegal activities,” Tencent said.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to safeguard Weixin’s [WeChat] security and integrity, our global risk management team monitors the platform around-the-clock in order to take immediate action against any accounts engaged in illegal activities.”
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A small clear plastic bag holds all of the personal protective equipment 64-year-old Geraldton GP Ian Taylor has to protect himself against COVID-19, and he’s worried.
- GPs are moving consultations to phones and cars where possible
- Clinics markedly busier since the coronavirus crisis began
- Regional GPs are doing extra training on using ventilators in preparation
“What I have here is for myself — a basic gown and some ordinary masks, not of a P2 standard,” Dr Taylor.
“Obviously if we find ourselves in the practice with COVID-19 and coughing we are not properly prepared for it.”
Dr Taylor was so conscious of protecting the meagre equipment he has left he would not open the bag so the ABC could photograph its contents.
“I myself am developing a bit of anxiety about this,” he said.
“Some of the GPs are of an older age such as me and we are obviously at higher risk if we contract COVID-19.”
“So I am feeling very much like I am at the frontline, right in the trenches and I don’t feel adequately equipped to deal with it.”
The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) has led Dr Taylor’s surgery to begin triaging patients at the door and conducting some consultations by phone.
Moving appointment to phones and cars
Busselton GP Sarah Moore said she would prefer to do all general consults via telehealth.
“When a patient rings up for an appointment the reception will speak to them and ask a few screening questions to see if they’re well or unwell and every patient will actually be offered a telehealth consultation,” she said.
“Some of the patients we are asking to come to the car park and wait in their car until the doctor’s ready to speak with them and we’re using a video conferencing software so that we can talk to the patient over the phone.”
“If the patient is unwell and they require an examination there’s two options, we can don our PPE and we can come out and examine them in their car.
“Or if we consider them to be high risk for COVID-19 and they require swabbing then we will send them to the hospital, which is where they’re doing all the swabbing at the moment.”
Patients adapting well to telehealth
Dr Moore said the lack of PPE in regional clinics underlined the need for doctors to only physically examine patients if absolutely necessary.
She also said most patients had found the telehealth technology easy to use.
“It’s working best over wifi but it can be used on 4G as well and the patient feedback has been really, really positive and also from the doctors using it.”
Perth GP Peck Tang said her surgery had put on extra shifts to cope with the increased workload created by COVID-19.
Who should present to COVID-19 clinics?
- Those who are experiencing flu-like symptoms — like sore throat, cough, fever — AND
- Have returned from overseas in the past 14 days or
- Have been in confirmed or suspected contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case
Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results.
Major clinics have been set up at Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner and Fiona Stanley Hospitals and will be open from 8:00am–8:00pm daily.
In regional WA, a clinic is operating at Bunbury Health Campus from 10:00am–4:00pm daily.
Clinics are also being set up in other regional and suburban metro areas.
For more information go to the Health Department website.
“I think when the fever clinics can’t cope then we will be certainly be under the pump even more,” she said.
Dr Tang’s Claremont practice had also begun telehealth consults and has given reception staff scripts to read to patients to help triage them.
“We also advise patients to sit in their car when they get here and just let us know, so then when we’re ready I go and grab them or if possible then we see them in the car.”
Dr Tang said her practice had goggles, masks, gloves and gowns but worried it would not be enough if the virus hit hard.
“Given that we have very limited personal protection equipment, it’s going to be tricky for us to manage everyone appropriately.”
Advice to older Australians: stay at home
Dr Tang said, ideally, immunocompromised people and anyone over 70, should be self-isolating now if they can.
“Because the idea really is to slow down the spread, because if everyone falls sick, we might not be able to cope in the hospital system,” she said.
WA COVID-19 snapshot
- Confirmed cases so far: 231
- Deaths: 2
- Tested negative: 11,288
“Sometimes it’s not realistic [to self-isolate], so it becomes a personal choice.”
“But those who are on chemo for example, they should isolate as much as is possible.”
Dr Tang said relatives or friends could drop off food to people self-isolating at home and have a chat, but at a distance.
“You can say hello at the distance without contact, rather than just dump stuff at the door,” she said.
High-risk people need personalised advice
She said older and immunocompromised people should also avoid contact with small children.
“At this stage children don’t seem to get very sick and they can be carriers who don’t have symptoms so it’s a good idea to avoid baby-sitting or being in contact with them,” she said.
Dr Tang said anyone in a high-risk group should speak to their GP for personalised advice.
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“A lot of this probably needs to be dealt with on an individual basis for those who have chronic medical conditions or are over 70 because it’s very hard to generalise advice,” she said.
“It’s good to ring your GP because they know your underlying medical conditions so they will be best to advise you whether you need to be seen or not.”
More social distancing needed
Dr Taylor said social distancing needed to be pushed harder by health officials.
“But also I really think we need to close the schools,” he said.
“I fully support the AMA President on this.”
“A lot of our teachers are older and they are at risk, some have elderly relatives.”
“I think they are feeling that they are being abandoned.”
He said he believed parents should take their children out of school and care for them at home if they can.
“Of course we appreciate that there are parents out there, look even grocery store people are now becoming essential, never mind doctors, nurses, police and so forth, so there are a groups of people that obviously need to keep at work,” he said.
“But I would strongly recommend to parents that if they are able to, they should start pulling their kids out of school now.”
“We need to be proactive and we need to get on this now because where we are now, we won’t know for 10 days and in 10 days time it will be too late.”
Preparing for regional ventilation
Dr Taylor said his surgery was preparing to have to treat patients on ventilators if they can’t be transferred to Perth.
Ventilators are machines that force air in and out of the lungs, and have proved vital for critically ill coronavirus patients.
“There is a training day this week where we will be running scenarios to train and to practice on managing severely ill patients and managing ventilated patients,” he said.
“Because there is that possibility that we may be required to look after ventilated patients if Perth is unable to accept them”
The Northern Territory has recorded two new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total number of cases detected in the NT to three.
- A Territorian in his mid-30s who recently returned to Darwin from Europe has tested positive to COVID-19
- The man, who had been in self-isolation, is the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in the NT
- Close contacts of the man, including plane passengers, will be contacted by health authorities
Earlier today, health authorities revealed a man in his mid-30s had tested positive after flying into Darwin yesterday from Zagreb, via Istanbul and Denpasar.
He flew from Denpasar to Darwin on JQ82, arriving at 5:00am on March 19.
The second case was a 21-year-old woman who arrived in Darwin on March 19 after flying from Utah, via San Francisco and Brisbane.
She flew from Brisbane to Darwin on QF824, arriving at midday.
Both people went into self-isolation on arrival in Darwin, as is now required under Australian regulations.
People on those flights are being contacted as part of contact tracing procedures.
“We want to remind Territorians to stay calm,” Health Minister Natasha Fyles said at a press conference following the first confirmed case today.
“This person had recently returned from overseas, and therefore, was in isolation, as all Territorians and Australians need to be if they have been overseas.”
NT COVID-19 snapshot
- Cases detected so far: 5
NT Centre for Disease Control director Vicki Krause said the man in his 30s had been in Darwin for about 24 hours and had very limited contact with the outside community.
“At this time, he has been basically off his plane, in quarantine, drove himself to the [pandemic] clinic, went home, was in quarantine,” she said.
Dr Krause said close contacts who were on the plane with the man would already be in self-quarantine as per Australian requirements for all international arrivals.
However, she said health officials would be in daily contact with them.
Dr Krause praised the man for following all requirements, including calling ahead to his GP before trying to attend a clinic.
She said the man was “moderately unwell”.
“He’s a young man, not in the age dynamic that we expect to be that affected,” she said.
The Territory detected its first case of COVID-19 two weeks ago when a tourist from Sydney arrived in Darwin.
That case is now counted in the national COVID-19 statistics as a NSW case, despite the man still being treated at Royal Darwin Hospital.
The NT’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Dianne Stephens said Katherine Hospital would open its pandemic assessment clinic to check its procedures, despite not much demand at this stage.
Other pandemic clinics in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy will open when required, she said.
The NT’s drive-thru testing clinic at Howard Springs is expected to open by Monday, although it could open earlier if necessary.
How do I get tested in the NT?
- If you can’t contact or get to your GP, but you have the symptoms, you should call 1800 008 002
- This is a dedicated NT-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) number for people who need to arrange testing only
- If you live in Darwin and need to arrange testing, call the Public Health Unit on 8922 8044
- Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results
- For general advice, Territorians can call 1800 020 080
Three specialist coronavirus testing clinics will be opened at Perth hospitals next week as the WA Government considers reopening the mothballed Princess Margaret Hospital for Children for larger-scale testing if the virus starts to spread locally.
- PMH closed in 2018 with the opening of Perth Children’s Hospital
- It is one of the sites being considered for large-scale treatment
- Two West Australians have so far tested positive for the virus
The first so-called “fever clinics” will be opened at Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner and Fiona Stanley hospitals.
The clinics would be located in either a dedicated hospital room or a temporary building on hospital grounds.
They would be staffed by medical specialists and be equipped to test adults and children, who would be able to turn up for testing without a GP referral.
Clinic opening times have not yet been finalised.
Only two West Australians have so far been confirmed as coronavirus cases — 78-year-old James Kwan, who died at the weekend, and his 79-year-old wife.
Both of them contracted the virus on the Diamond Process cruise ship in Japan.
Mr Kwan was diagnosed after the couple were evacuated to Darwin, while his wife tested positive after they were flown back to Perth for treatment.
Risk remains low in WA
The WA deputy chief health officer Robyn Lawrence said the risk of coronavirus in WA remained low, with 700 people tested since the global virus outbreak, or an average of 40 people a day.
Dr Lawrence said the initial three fever clinics would be able to meet that level of demand, but more clinics would be opened at other hospitals if required.
She said if the virus started to spread locally, the Government would consider opening testing clinics in larger buildings, including decommissioned facilities like Princess Margaret Hospital.
“PMH could be in that list,” she said.
“It has been fully decommissioned so it’s not a clinical facility that can be readily established, but all options will remain on the table should they be required.”
The WA Health Minister Roger Cook said a public information campaign would also be launched within days.
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“We have been liaising with the Commonwealth and waiting for them to provide details of the national public health campaign, but we need to act earlier in the interests of the WA public,” he said.
GPs criticised for turning away patients
The Australian Medical Association of WA said the rollout of the fever clinics was an “excellent start”, but general practitioners needed more support to deal with potential cases.
Mr Cook said this morning it was “inappropriate” for GPs to refuse to treat patients.
“I’ve heard first-hand from people who have said they rang the GP to say ‘I’m coming in, I’m not feeling well’ and they were told not to come here,” he told ABC Radio Perth.
“It’s just unacceptable,” he said.
AMA (WA) president Andrew Miller said he would “back any doctor, any nurse, any health care worker who feels that they understand the risk better than the Government”.
He said some GPs were turning people away because they were struggling to source face masks and other personal protective equipment.
“If they don’t have the right gear and they think they’re exposing other patients and themselves to unacceptable risks then the AMA will back any practice that chooses to refer fever patients elsewhere,” he said.
Some GP clinics have posted signs on their doors requesting patients who suspect they have coronavirus to wait in their car and call the surgery.
To avoid GP clinics becoming overwhelmed, Dr Miller said telehealth services should be expanded to allow potential coronavirus patients to stay at home and receive an initial medical assessment via a video call.
Mr Cook said the issue was discussed at a meeting of state and federal health ministers last week, but it would require changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule.
“I’ve written to the Federal Minister today to urge him to speed up that consideration,” he said.
“We want to get this on the road now because we think that telehealth will be a very useful way that we can extend the amount of patients that can be seen by a primary care provider.”
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Victoria’s health authorities have confirmed a visitor from Hubei province in China as the third case of coronavirus in the state, as the national total rises to nine.
- The third case in Victoria is a woman in her 40s who tested positive on Thursday and is now in isolation in hospital
- Health authorities are investigating where another Chinese visitor who tested positive in Queensland may have gone while he was in Melbourne
- There are eight suspected cases in Victoria pending test results
The woman in her 40s is in a stable condition in isolation at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, a statement from Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services said.
She tested positive for the virus on Thursday.
“The woman attended a GP and was referred to the hospital immediately,” the statement said.
“Two close contacts are being provided support and education and monitored closely for symptoms of illness.
“Further information on public exposure sites will be made available once confirmed.”
There are currently eight suspected cases in Victoria pending test results and a total of 71 negative results.
Public exposure sites in Melbourne being investigated
The announcement comes as Queensland health authorities confirm that state’s second case. Four cases have been confirmed in NSW.
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said in a statement on Thursday evening a 42-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan had tested positive to the virus.
Dr Young said the woman was a member of the tour group travelling with the 44-year-old man who was Queensland’s first confirmed case on Wednesday.
The group was on Tigerair Australia flight TT566 on January 27 from Melbourne to the Gold Coast when the man first started showing symptoms.
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The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services statement said they were working closely with Commonwealth and Queensland health authorities to determine if there are were public exposure sites in Melbourne related to that case.
“All close contacts of the case have been identified and contacted,” the statement said.
“The patient was not symptomatic whilst in Melbourne, however, given recent evidence regarding potential of transmission in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset a precautionary approach is being undertaken.
“Further updates will be provided when information is available.”
What to do if you are worried
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has established a Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
National and state health authorities now recommend that anyone who has travelled in China’s Hubei province self-isolate for 14 days after leaving the province, other than when seeking individual medical care.
People who have recently travelled in other parts of China or other countries are not being asked to self-isolate at this time.
Anyone who develops symptoms of fever and breathing difficulty or cough or who have had direct contact with a confirmed case should seek medical help immediately.
Before visiting a GP or emergency department, they are advised to call ahead to advise about recent travel and symptoms.
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- Christmas Island locals surprised, split over quarantine role
- Australian lab recreates coronavirus, helping vaccine push
- The Australian kids trapped in Wuhan by coronavirus
- From fish market to global epidemic: How the outbreak unfolded
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Regional doctors have reported being sidelined or restricted when offering help at their local bushfire evacuation centres, and are calling for GPs to be formally added to future emergency response plans.
- A Nowra GP says operational barriers hampered her efforts to help
- She is seeking a meeting with leaders to co-ordinate future responses
- A medical body suggests creating a register for regional doctors before emergencies happen
As fires burned across New South Wales and Victoria, private GPs in affected areas went to centres where many of their patients had fled.
Yet some say operational barriers and command structures hampered their efforts, and in one case a GP was told she couldn’t work with the official team to treat people.
Kate Manderson is a GP in Nowra and rallied her staff last weekend as NSW braced for extreme conditions.
She raided her four practices and set up a temporary site at a local evacuation centre, bringing nine oxygen cylinders, two cardiac monitors, three defibrillators, and emergency medications.
Dr Manderson said the local authorities were grateful she was there, but she soon hit hurdles.
“I notified the EOC (emergency operation centre) that I was there and willing to help … and the EOC team called me back and said, ‘Well, no. You’re not part of our protocols and you’re not part of our team, so we can’t use you’,” she said.
“It’s not because they didn’t know me, didn’t think I could do a good job … but their protocols, their policies, their governance structures don’t allow someone who is not part of their system to work with their system.
“And that’s what we’re calling to change, to make this part of the system so that these barriers aren’t put in place.”
Dr Manderson said her team treated about 20 people, including those with respiratory issues and an RFS firefighter who had sustained a cut.
She said she had heard similar stories from colleagues in Mallacoota and Merimbula in the past week, and would seek a meeting with people in leadership positions to have GPs embedded in future emergency evacuation plans.
Kate Manderson tweet
“The doctors down at Mallacoota, there’s a bunch of GPs who have stepped up to the plate and got stuff done just because they were there and wanted to step up, not because there was a process in place to allow that to happen,” she said.
“The local health district and the ambulance services were just not really interested in helping us out.”
Michael Rice tweet
A doctor in Merimbula — who has chosen to remain anonymous — also expressed frustration at the co-ordination of local help.
She said she went to an evacuation centre but was told she could only give basic first aid, and an ambulance had to be called for anything else.
She said ambulances took an hour to arrive and the St John’s Ambulance team that had been helping was evacuated from her area.
“I don’t understand why there would not be better co-ordination of care,” she said.
“If not for the dedication of our lovely group of local GPs … these people were abandoned with not even any access to basic first aid.”
‘We don’t want chaos’
This week Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that, for the first time, Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) specialists were being deployed in a domestic setting to provide support.
The eight specialists — two doctors, two nurses, two paramedics and two logisticians — were deployed to the RAAF base in Sale in East Gippsland to provide clinical and logistical assistance to evacuees.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Rural Workforce Agency — a peak body for medical professionals — has put out the call for locum doctors to head to regional areas to provide support in the coming weeks and months.
Agency CEO Trevor Carr said he understood the concerns of local doctors wanting to help when emergencies happened, but it had to be done in a co-ordinated way.
“We need to have a command structure, because otherwise things just turn to chaos,” he said.
“I think one of the challenges is when the emergency is actually in play, the emergency command structures don’t necessarily take into account private individuals. And of course a lot of general practitioners are in private business.
He said one idea being considered was creating a register of approved local doctors who could help in future bushfires.
“If at least there’s a preregister of practitioners and clinical nurses with appropriate skills, then as soon as they present their credentials they know that they’re credentialed to go in the zone,” he said.
“That would be a different scenario than just trying to assist in the flurry of the emergency.”
Stay across our bushfire coverage:
- NSW fire danger to worsen as hot temperatures and erratic winds bear down on several areas
- The fires threat rises in East Gippsland and Alpine communities with emergency evacuations
- Almost half of Kangaroo Island has been scorched by bushfires, CFS confirms
- What the experts say about hazard reduction burns and our current fire catastrophe
- Wildlife experts say over a billion animals now dead in NSW bushfires
The chief emergency doctor of the NT’s largest hospital used an awkward New Year’s Eve press conference to criticise the Top End’s overstretched health system, calling for more beds as a matter of urgency.
His comments came less than 18 months after the opening of a 116-bed, $206 million hospital in Palmerston, a facility just 21 kilometres from the existing Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH).
So what is going on with Darwin’s hospitals? How does opening a new facility add more pressure?
As Top End Health Service’s emergency medicine director Didier Palmer told media on New Year’s Eve, the new Palmerston Regional Hospital (PRH) “created more demand” for staff at RDH.
He said staff were struggling to cope and RDH was in desperate need of more beds.
Top End Health Service executive director medical service, Dr Charles Pain, who oversees both hospitals, explained some of the spike had been caused by people choosing to visit the ED at PRH instead of their regular GP.
He also said the older facility was experiencing extra pressure because it shared staff with PRH.
But Australian Medical Association NT president Dr Robert Parker said the Palmerston facility was a “total waste of money” — especially considering the NT Government’s debt was expected to reach more than $8 billion over the next four years of forward estimates.
“It’s a luxury we can’t afford at the moment,” he said.
Dr Parker said if it was up to him, he’d shut “everything” down at PRH except the rehab and geriatrics ward.
“It really should have been what the original concept was — a rehab, geriatric facility,” he said.
“Palmerston will have its day, it will achieve its goals in about 10 to 15 years when RDH has structural issues.
“The building itself is a good idea, but currently it’s just absorbing a whole heap of resources.”
Palmerston ‘hasn’t realised its potential’
Dr Pain said every bed at the PRH facility was full — which clearly demonstrated a need from the community — and by April another 30 beds would open, easing pressure on both RDH and PRH.
“I wouldn’t like people to think that the opening of Palmerston has been detrimental,” Dr Pain said.
“It’s overwhelmingly been a good thing. But it hasn’t quite realised it’s potential.”
Dr Pain said the two services which PRH was delivering well — geriatrics and rehab medicine — had helped many Territorians get back home sooner.
But he didn’t agree with Dr Parker’s proposal to shut all the other services at PRH.
ACEM figures show:
- Prior to the opening of PRH ED in August 2018, RDH ED was seeing about 71,000 patients per year
- Since PRH ED opened, the number of patients RDH ED saw per year decreased to to 61,000
- PRH ED started seeing about 30,000 patients per year
- This accounts to a net increase of 20,000 patients per year
Overall, Dr Pain said there had been a 10 per cent growth in the number of discharges from PRH and RDH in the last year, and patients who presented to the ED were not always admitted to hospital.
According to the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM), the number of presentations to RDH and PRH has increased by about 30 per cent since August 2018, when the Palmerston facility opened.
While Dr Pain put some of the spike down to patients choosing to visit the PRH ED instead of their GP, the new opening of the new Palmerston facility also coincided with a reduction of hours at Palmerston GP Super Clinic, a five-minute drive from PRH.
The Super Clinic used to be open 24 hours a day, but started closing at 10:30pm shortly before PRH opened and now only stays open until 8:30pm.
Call for more 100 more Darwin beds
ACEM president Dr John Bonning said the current situation was “unacceptable” and patient safety was under threat.
“Royal Darwin Hospital is overcrowded, and this is well known to increase risk of harm and death for patients,” he said.
“The Darwin hospital system is so stretched that the only solution is a significant increase in appropriately staffed in-patient beds.”
In a statement, ACEM said the Darwin hospital system needed “at least 100 more beds” as a matter of urgency. It said every day at RDH, patients were being forced to share cubicles and were being put in “inappropriate spaces” due to a lack of inpatient beds.
But as Dr Parker explained, RDH needs both capital funding to open extra beds and ongoing funding to keep extra wards staffed and operating.
“There’s the issue of short term where there is a lack of funding,” he said.
“Then there is long term — where we need to look at the fact that the NT has twice the rate of avoidable hospital admissions as the rest of Australia.
“The solution is to look at the avoidable admissions and how to reduce them.”
Dr Pain said Top End Health Service was doing its best to provide integrated services balanced appropriately between preventive, primary, secondary and tertiary services — but it could always benefit from more funding.
A Top End Health Service spokeswoman said in the 2018-19 financial year, the NT Government spent $25 million running PRH “plus commonwealth activity-based funding along with other sources of revenues”.
It spent an additional $1.4 million ferrying patients from PRH to RDH, a service contracted to CareFlight’s ground transport service.
Vybz Kartel shows off his Christmas gifts which includes a couple pairs of Desert Clarks and a visit from his daughter.
One of Kartel’s biggest singles of his career is his 2009 mega hit “Clarks” and his love for the iconic show brand has not changed despite seeing him rocking Jordans in prison recently. The Worl’Boss posted photos of some of his unique Desert boots on Instagram last week which arrived at GP just in time for Christmas.
Vybz Kartel laced up his new kicks on Monday for a holiday family visit. His eldest daughter and other members of his family came and visited him at GP. “Adi’Anna n Mommy me choose.. Love my Prinny #1MoreTime,” Kartel wrote on Instagram in the caption of a photo of himself and his daughter. The dancehall star wore all-white for the occasion while rocking a beard. Some of his fans made fun of his struggling afro which stirred up rumors that he is going rasta.
Kartel had a lot of time on his hands yesterday and used it to respond to Alkaline and Tony Matterhorn beef where he trolled the Vendetta deejay for dissing the veteran selector for playing Kartel music at his birthday party in Florida last weekend.
Vybz Kartel will be meeting his second daughter for the first time.
Since around last year summer, there have been rumors claiming that Vybz Kartel has a second daughter that he has never met. A female posted a video on social media showing off the toddler while proclaiming that the incarcerated deejay is the little girl’s father. At the time Kartel denied the allegations and his common-law wife Shorty refuted the claims. Turns out the female wasn’t lying and now the dancehall star is stepping up to the plate of fatherhood once again.
Vybz Kartel confirmed on Instagram earlier this week that he will be meeting his daughter for the first time ever. “My 2nd daughter.. Never met before.. Hope fi see yuh soon,” he wrote. Sources inside the Gaza told Dancehall HipHop today that he has approved a prison visit for the little girl and her mother to visit him at GP at a date in the near future. “Addi (Vybz Kartel) always take fatherhood very serious, this man love all of his kids equally it doesn’t matter who are their mother,” sources told us.
We’re also told that Kartel is planning to be more involved in his daughter’s life and fully take care of her just like his other four kids. Vybz Kartel currently has three sons with Tanesha “Shorty” Johnson and another daughter with another female.
Back in September, Vybz Kartel posted a photo of himself and his first daughter on IG following a family visit at GP. “Mi n My princess!!! Love you BabyGurl! XOXO,” he wrote. Kartel, born Adidja Palmer is currently waiting on his appeal trial set for February next year in the Jamaica Appeal Court. That will likely be his final chance of securing his freedom following a controversial 2014 murder conviction in the Home Circuit Court.
Titanium timepiece, dimepiece between the sheets with body heat
Maserati’s not leased
Cock the pump shottie, it make your body leak
Not your main hottie, she kinda knock-kneed
Mahogany woodgrain all in the five speed
Silk lay on me, pray for me
8 million stories in the naked city
The humidity it made the titties oil
Skin is salty, it’s sultry, can’t fault me
For all this ice on me I’m tryna stay frosty
Smokin’ lah out in Bogotá
The focus, niggas lookin’ like smokers in the eyes
You poked and left immobilized where the vultures fly
I’m bout to cop a home in Oceanside
Sky Dweller’s frozen in time, my mind’s a goldmine
You washed and left to dry on the clothesline
Hoes on your vines look like Kanye clothing line
Bring you closer to God, caught you laying low out in Omaha
Oh my god
Don’t start me [?]
Omar scar [?]
Send your family a nice postcard
Pimpstead (already), get the bag (already)
New whips (already), all my hoes (already)
See my team (already), I been a G (already)
Light the weed (already), nigga we (already)
Yeah nigga (already, already)
How the fuck we get down boy (we already, already)
Kiss the ring, million dollar ding-a-ling swing
I’m just gettin’ back in the swing of things
My jeans fit me like Springsteen
Bring M16s I might need a spring cleaned
I’m tryna hear these niggas sneakers squeak
Think it’s sweet get your street sweeped
Sweep you off your feet, that’s off GP
Squeeze three at your Bentley GT
With the drum my queen Sheila E
The whips ceiling-free, rip the brick up like cream of wheat
We the team to beat
The fans demand new work, but I’m a man of few words
Your tool don’t burst if so then who heard, your view’s blurred
I couldn’t speak, the OG said chew your food first
Spoon was burnt, my shoes is worth an MF DOOM verse
Niggas they claim they ain’t rappers doin’ all the rappin’ (how that work?)
Niggas sayin’ they got cash and I’m saying they catfish
Ain’t none of that shit off Saks Fifth
No respectable establishment carries this
Save yourself the embarrassment, you shallow
When it comes to this apparel, you not parallel
You still in my shadow, ho nigga stealin’ my swag though
Now I know just how Satchmo felt