Victorian town gets COVID tested in droves

·2-min read

Thousands of residents in the COVID-hit Victorian town of Shepparton have turned out to local testing sites as part of the outbreak's peak day 13 period.

Thirteen new coronavirus infections have been linked to the 126-case Shepparton outbreak, which has landed an estimated 20,000 people in isolation since it was discovered almost a fortnight ago.

Extra resources were sent to the town to cope with a surge in demand for testing from 4000 people seeking day 13 swabs on Thursday.

Most are students and teachers from schools caught up in the outbreak.

Schools and year levels were allocated specific testing times to prevent delays, but sites quickly reached capacity on Thursday morning before wait times improved.

Goulburn Valley Health confirmed 3481 tests had been completed to 2pm across its network of drive-through sites and walk-up clinics.

"I do appreciate and acknowledge some of the wait times have been a little long," chief executive Matt Sharp told reporters in Shepparton.

"But we've got plenty of capacity to meet that demand over the course of the day."

Teacher Amber Bock, 27, and firefighter Daniel Dimattina, 29, were among those tested in the region after joining one of the queues at 6am on Thursday to beat the rush.

Testing opened about 8.30am and it took about an hour to get their swabs.

Ms Bock and Mr Dimattina have been stuck in isolation since August 20 after Ms Bock's housemate - a teacher at Greater Shepparton Secondary College - was identified as a primary close contact.

Mr Dimattina, who lives in Reservoir, was visiting his Shepparton-based fiancee and was about to return to Melbourne when informed they needed to isolate.

While only primary close contacts require day 13 testing, both fronted up so they can return to work.

Ms Bock is one of about 10 teachers at Numurkah Secondary College who have had to isolate, despite no cases linked to the school.

She said staff shortages across supermarkets, cafes and other businesses had put Shepparton under "intense strain", and many of her school's students were struggling with remote learning due to connectivity issues.

"We've got about 260 students but probably about 50 per cent engagement online," Ms Bock said.

A further 1000-odd people in the Goulburn Valley region are due for day 13 testing in the coming days.

All must return a negative result and wait to be formally notified by the health department before they can leave isolation.

Acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie acknowledged the long testing wait times and said if someone cannot get their day 13 test done on day 13, it can be done on day 14 and will not trigger an extension to their quarantine.

Prof Cowie also noted there had not been a high rate of transmission in most of regional Victoria, even when cases have popped up in places such as Echuca and Traralgon.

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