Through autumn and winter there are always a large number of different respiratory viruses circulating in the Australian community. In this context, however, the pre-test probability that a person has COVID-19 should determine whether a test is performed.
Testing has two important functions:
Prioritisation of case testing, using Rt-PCR on nasal swab samples, has been developed and implemented.
NOTE: Decisions regarding testing prioritisation are made by the NSW Ministry of Health in response to clinical and public health imperatives. NSW Health Pathology will advise on these matters but conforms to NSW Ministry of Health direction.
Early detection of COVID-19 is always important and in certain institutional and community settings it can significantly change management. Settings where this is considered to be important include:
Testing can determine whether an outbreak is in progress. Where a positive test would significantly change the management of an infection outbreak, then these tests should be prioritised.
Currently all agencies and businesses are advised to facilitate working from home. Further, workers located on work premises should be checked each day and sent home if unwell. Physical distancing must be facilitated in the workplace. Where prolonged close contact is inevitable appropriate PPE should be worn.
These two practices, i.e. physical distancing and use of personal protective equipment, should significantly control the likelihood of disease transmission at work and thus minimise the requirement to perform staff testing to maintain essential services. Where a public health or clinical need is evident then testing should be prioritised.
NSW Health Pathology and Office of the Chief Health Officer
Incident Management Team
Version 3 - 6 May 2020: Stephen Braye, Emergency Operations Centre Incident Controller, NSWHP