Pop-up test site

Wangaratta opens screening centre for COVID-19
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APPOINTMENTS ONLY: Tim Griffiths, Northeast Health Wangaratta interim chief executive officer, officially opened the off-site testing facility for people potentially carrying COVID-19. PHOTO: Kieren Tilly

A SCREENING centre for COVID-19 has opened in Norton Street to test people with symptoms of coronavirus.

The Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW) run extension, located next to the Red Cross Blood Bank, will be staffed from 8am to 6pm, seven days a week during the pandemic.

So far 20 local residents have been tested through a nasopharyngeal swab over a 3-week period, with all tests returning negative.

People who have any or a combination of fever, sore throat, cough or shortness of breath should call 1800 324 942 to make an appointment to be tested.

NHW executive director clinical services Rebecca Weir said it is extra significant if the person has travelled overseas in the last 14 days or if they’ve had confirmed contact with a person who has been confirmed to have COVID-19.

“The reason we’re doing the appointments is so we can limit the exposure and reduce the risk of transmission,” Ms Weir said.

“Local staff will man the 1800 number from 8am to 6pm and then calls will be diverted to the Victorian Department of Health after hours.

“This is day-one and we’re still working through the processes so we ask for some patience and understanding.”

People are screened over the phone and if they meet the criteria they will be scheduled for an appointment.

The Norton Street testing centre only has the capacity to test 20 people per day and test results will take up to 72 hours.

Australian deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly reports that the number of infections nationally could range between 20 to 60 per cent of the population, with about a one per cent death rate.

The local centre is staffed by one doctor and 1-2 nurses and two admin staff but the set up could change.

Interim chief executive officer Tim Griffiths said “if things really escalated we’ll need to look at secondary sites for surge capacity and we’ve had a conversation with the Rural City of Wangaratta about options”.

The screening centre will be manned by a security guard as a precaution based on potential incidents that have taken place at other Victorian centres in recent weeks.

It is also an off-site centre for NHW so it’s about provision and protection for staff.

Mr Griffiths said health authorities are “reasonably hopeful” they will have a vaccine for the virus by the end of 2020.

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