Almost 30 Covid testing clinics closed as Omicron overwhelms

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·News Reporter
·4-min read
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  • Brad Hazzard
    New South Wales politician

Almost 30 Covid-19 testing sites have been closed in NSW as the crisis continues.

Pathologists Australian Clinical Labs, which runs drive-through and walk-in facilities, said on Monday it had to temporarily close a number of sites “due to the significant increase in testing volumes”.

The closure includes 16 drive-through clinics and nine walk-in facilities. Australian Clinical Labs began reopening some previously closed testing sites on Tuesday.

Testing facilities across the state have been inundated with people since cases began skyrocketing at the end of last year.

Just 83,376 tests were conducted in the past 24-hour period until 8pm on Monday, with more than 140,000 in peak testing periods last week.

In NSW, more than 23,000 new daily Covid cases were reported on Tuesday.

Health care workers administer Covid-19 PCR tests at the St Vincent’s drive-through clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney.
A man presents for testing at the St Vincent’s drive-through clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney on New Year's Day. Source: AAP

‘Enormous pressure’ on clinics

The NSW response to the latest outbreak has been met with widespread criticism over concerns the health system has been unfairly burdened.

Australian Medical Association vice-president Chris Moy said his colleagues and medical administrators were "struggling" with staff shortages as case numbers rose.

Much of the high testing caseload before Christmas was blamed on the Queensland Government requiring a negative test result within 72 hours of arrival from a hotspot. That rule was scrapped on January 1.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it clogged the already overwhelmed testing system in his state.

"It's putting enormous pressure, pretty incredible pressure on the clinical needs of testing here in NSW for people who really need to know whether they are or they are not positive to the current virus," Mr Hazzard said.

There were also complaints from people who claimed it took more than 72 hours to receive results – further dampening any hope of travelling over the holidays.

Closed NSW drive-through testing sites

  • Clarendon at Hawkesbury Showground

  • Dural

  • Emerald Hills at Emerald Hills Shopping Village

  • Granville

  • Hornsby RSL

  • Hunters Hill at Boronia Park

  • Kingswood

  • Liverpool

  • Marsden Park

  • Minto at Coronation Park

  • Parklea at Parklea Markets

  • Penrith RSL Club

  • Sydney Olympic Park

  • Warriewood at Warringah Rugby Club

  • Windsor

  • Winmalee at Summerhayes Park

Closed NSW walk-in testing sites

  • Ashfield

  • Blacktown

  • Campsie

  • Fairfield at St Joseph Medical Centre

  • Harris Park

  • Manly

  • Narrabri Hospital

  • Windale

People queue outside a Covid-19 testing clinic in Sydney, Australia.
There have been many complaints over staff shortages and lengthy delays at testing clinics. Source: Getty Images

Rapid antigen test headaches

The latest issue has been on the reliance on rapid antigen testing. Tests are proving hard to find and Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would not be providing them for free.

"We're now in a stage of the pandemic where you can't just go around making everything free," he told the Seven Network on Monday.

"When someone tells you they want to make something free, someone's always going to pay for it, and it's going to be you."

Mr Morrison has come under fire for refusing to budge on offering the tests. The tests are being offered for free in the UK and the US.

But in Australia, if you can find one, there are reports some are being sold for more than $20 for a single test.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference following a national cabinet meeting, at Parliament House in Canberra.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised for not offering free rapid antigen tests. Source: AAP

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese tweeted on Tuesday the PM “hasn’t done a thing to make rapid antigen tests available and affordable”.

“Australians are paying the price for his refusal to plan ahead and take responsibility,” Mr Albanese tweeted.

“Not ordering enough rapid tests is yet another public policy failure from Scott Morrison’s government. First vaccines, and now this. Australians deserve so much better.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said as many as 100 million would be made available during the next two months, nearly double the number of all PCR tests conducted nationally since the pandemic began two years ago.

with AAP

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