'Absolutely critical': Disturbing new testing numbers revealed for Victoria

Less than 50 per cent of people with mild symptoms are getting tested for coronavirus in Victoria, recent surveys indicate.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said regular surveys of people who have coronavirus compatible symptoms, as part of the national flu surveillance, revealed that the majority of people with symptoms such as a scratchy throat, runny nose or slight cough weren’t coming forward.

“We should really focus our efforts on trying to make sure that more than 50 per cent of people who have symptoms... are coming forward for testing,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“That has got to be our priority”.

Testing on Tuesday dropped to a mere 10,153 tests, while Wednesday’s total was 13,912.

In contrast NSW reported 20,083 tests were carried out in the 24 hours through to 8pm on Tuesday, and Queensland recorded 18,151 tests.

Testing across Melbourne has dropped since the peak of the second wave. Source: Getty
Testing across Melbourne has dropped since the peak of the second wave. Source: Getty

At the peak of the second wave, testing in Victoria routinely surpassed 40,000 tests a day.

On Wednesday there were 90 new infections recorded, with Professor Sutton saying that about one per cent of tests are now positive.

In August, Prof Sutton said 20,000 daily tests was desired as Premier Daniel Andrews repeatedly stressed the state needs to know “how much virus is out there” after a 17 per cent drop in testing.

He even went as far as to suggest Stage 4 restrictions could not be lifted if testing rates continued to drop.

Premier’s plea to ‘get us open sooner’

When pressed on Wednesday over whether opening up was dependent on testing rates, Mr Andrews said he was not willing to issue such an ultimatum, but stressed it was “absolutely critical that we have the most complete picture”.

He said he didn’t think testing would derail his roadmap out of restrictions set to be delivered on Sunday but the state must take it day by day.

“As soon as [symptoms] begin, please come forward and get tested. It is a simple but massive thing that you can do to to get us open sooner,” Mr Andrews said.

While a percentage of symptomatic people may be hard to track, it differs from Prof Sutton’s earlier push for a static daily target.

The Victorian government had been questioned over such a daily target after residents were confined to their homes and fewer people were showing symptoms – a requirement for testing.

Epidemiologist Professor Raina MacIntyre at the University of NSW told Yahoo News Australia the number of tests will differ as the virus is suppressed in the community.

“The testing rates are not a static number – they should shift according to how much infection is being detected,” she said.

Prof Sutton once again ruled out widespread asymptomatic testing, insisting it remained “very low yield”.

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