An infectious disease expert has warned Victoria could be a victim of its own success after Premier Daniel Andrews said Stage 4 lockdown would not be lifted if testing rates continue to drop.
While Victoria has recorded a decline in new daily coronavirus cases, showing signs Stage 4 is making an impact, Mr Andrews revealed this week testing had dropped 17 per cent in comparison to the previous week.
Mr Andrews said on Wednesday there were 17,695 tests in the prior 24-hour period, while the state was recording more than 40,000 daily tests at the peak of the second wave.
Mr Andrews said the state needed to be in a position where they were confident of knowing the levels of community transmission before they could enter a “new phase”.
“The test numbers are too low for us to have clarity about just how much virus is out there,” he said.
Two reasons testing rates have dropped
However, Professor Nigel McMillan, director of infectious disease and immunology at the Menzies Health Institute, said there were two reasons why testing numbers have likely dropped off.
He claimed with people restricted from leaving their homes due to lockdown, less people were developing coronavirus symptoms and in need of getting tested.
“The lockdown is working, that shows in the number of cases going down,” he told Yahoo News Australia.
“Secondly, because people are in lockdown, even if they have a small sniffle they feel like well they’re in lockdown anyway and not going walking out and about so won’t get tested.
“I think they are the reasons testing numbers are going down. We’ve also just come off a very high base of testing, which isn’t sustainable either.”
‘Victim of their own success’
While Professor McMillan agreed with Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton when he said there was no magic number for the number of tests needed, the infectious disease expert said as long as testing numbers were high it was not necessary to continue entertaining a Stage 4 lockdown.
“They’re a victim of their own success in a sense, it’s working well and going in the right direction,” Professor McMillan said.
“What the premier is trying to say is if they’re not sustaining a high enough level of testing that satisfies, they won’t be able to leave lockdown.
“If numbers go from 200 to 20 they’ll know they’re on the right track.”
Major problem with coronavirus testing
Professor McMillan said there was one major issue when it came to who should be tested for the coronavirus and who shouldn’t.
He claimed people had attempted to get tested but were rejected the swab.
“When politicians and health officials are saying get tested for any minor sniffle and people turn up to testing sites and told they don’t qualify, they don’t have enough symptoms, then there’s a disconnect between those two people,” he said.
“It puts people off getting tested.
“I’ve had people ask me should they get tested and I’ve said yes and they are refused.”
Professor McMillan said Australia was no longer experiencing shortages with testing kits and believed anybody who showed up to get tested should qualify.
“Anyone who has any slight symptom, some people don’t even get symptoms, should get tested,” he said.
“The government needs to address the gap that’s not only evident in Victoria, but in other states as well. We don’t want to put people off getting tested.”
However, Professor McMillan said the trends were looking good in Victoria and it was headed in the right direction.
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