What do the new changes to Victoria’s COVID-19 testing system mean to you?

The Victorian government is calling this the “biggest change” to its COVID-19 testing system since the start of the pandemic.

In a bid to free up testing centers and reduce transmission amid an outbreak of the Omicron epidemic, the government will consider people who test positive on rapid antigenic tests (RATs) as “probable” cases.

As of midnight tonight, it will be mandatory that positive RAT results be filed online or by phone.

Those who test positive on a RAT will be considered “probable” cases and must self-isolate immediately for seven days and notify their contacts.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

People who test positive for a RAT will also have to follow the same rules as those who test positive for PCR.

So what exactly are the steps you should take if you are showing symptoms, are in close contact, or suspect you may have COVID-19?

What if you have symptoms?

If you have symptoms, including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, or a change in smell and taste, it’s best to assume you have COVID-19 and self-isolate immediately.

You should try to do a quick antigen test to confirm whether or not you have the virus.

If you return a positive RAT result, you will be considered a “probable case” and will need to file your result with the health care department, either online or by phone.

Professor Cowie addresses the media at a lectern
Acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie recommends that people who have symptoms or are in close contact not to have a PCR test.(PAA: James Ross)

Under the new guidelines, after your positive RAT result, you will have to undergo seven days of isolation like all other positive cases.

You don’t need a PCR test to confirm your result: Health officials have said that if you’re symptomatic and the test is positive with a RAT, you should assume you have COVID-19.

Acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie said a positive RAT result now held the “same authority” as a PCR test, with data showing that 90-95% of positive rapid tests would also produce positive PCR tests.

If your test is positive with a RAT, be sure to let your close contacts know, as they will also need to self-isolate for seven days.

Your social contacts should get tested if they develop any symptoms.

You should also let your workplace or educational institution know that you likely have COVID-19.

How do you house your positive RAT?

A new system for mandatory reporting of probable cases will be available online or by phone tomorrow, Friday, January 7, the health ministry said.

It will include a series of questions to determine your health risk.

Those who need language assistance will be able to access translation services over the phone.

“It’s a simple form, based on the kind of essential information we currently glean from cases, including a check on the severity of their symptoms,” said Professor Cowie.

“Privacy will of course be protected. “

Health Minister Martin Foley said once your details are entered you would be considered a ‘probable case’ and could access all the support received by the other confirmed positive cases.

“Essentially this new category, based on a rapid antigen test, will be the same in the system as if you had been diagnosed by a PCR system,” Foley said.

“They will have precisely the same obligations and rights … whether it’s clinical support, whether it’s state or Commonwealth financial support, and a whole range of other opportunities to be part of that response to care. primary health care. “

What if you were a close contact?

According to new national definitions introduced last week, you are considered close contact if you have spent four or more hours with a confirmed case in a home or family setting, such as a residential care facility.

If you are in close contact with a positive case, try to get a RAT as soon as possible.

If your test is positive, assume you have COVID-19 even though you have no symptoms, and file your positive status with the Victoria Health Department.

You will be required to follow the steps that all COVID-positive patients follow.

Watch your symptoms and be sure to seek relevant health advice if you need it.

Your diagnosis will be listed as a ‘probable case’ alongside the daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 by the Victorian government.

As a close contact, you will need to self-isolate for seven days whether or not you test positive for a RAT.

What if you can’t find a RAT?

A pink sheet of paper with black text reads
Many pharmacies have run out of rapid test kits due to increased demand.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

The demand for rapid antigenic tests has skyrocketed and kits are scarce.

Many pharmacies and supermarkets are full and it can be difficult to find a RAT when you need it.

The Victorian government has secured 44 million rapid tests, which are expected to arrive in the next few days, and is currently piloting a program that will see free RATs distributed to state-run testing centers.

But, until this RAT offer reaches Victoria, you should continue to take a PCR test if you cannot get tested otherwise.

“Until RATs are on the increase, Victorians who have symptoms or asymptomatic household contacts necessary to use RATs, can still take a PCR test if they cannot access any RATs,” the ministry said. of Victoria Health in a press release.

How about visiting vulnerable friends or family?

The Victorian government “strongly recommends” that you get a RAT if you are visiting nursing homes or hospitals.

The aim is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in these vulnerable environments.

If your test is positive, you have no symptoms, and you are not in close contact, it is recommended that you take a PCR test to confirm your diagnosis.

When to take a PCR test?

A healthcare worker with long hair and full PPE looks at a tablet at a testing site.
PCR testing will primarily be used for case verification in critical workforces or vulnerable environments.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

Under the new guidelines, PCR testing will primarily be reserved for testing critical workforces or for confirming cases in vulnerable environments, such as hospitals and nursing homes.

The Victorian government also recommends that you take a PCR test if you are positive on a RAT, but are asymptomatic and not in close contact with another positive case.

By dramatically reducing the criteria for getting a PCR test, Foley said he hoped the system would be protected for “those who need it most.”

“The goal is to make sure that we have less time in the testing centers,” Mr. Foley said.

“As a result, people are focusing faster on the most important thing: getting through this infectious COVID period and getting better. “

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What to do if you are feeling unwell and think you have COVID but cannot be tested.

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