The workers who’ll be targeted in new virus testing blitz

 

NATIONAL Cabinet will review today data showing the states and territories are on track to continue easing restrictions along the road map outlined three weeks ago.

Leaders could also sign off on guidelines for making public transport networks safe for the expected spike in passengers when more workers start returning to offices over the next few months.

The main focus however will be reviewing the first three weeks of the road map with medicos to present data understood to show states are meeting key benchmarks on criteria such as testing and health system capacity required before more restrictions are eased.

But before they can be eased, the cabinet is expected to approve a proposal for a coronavirus testing blitz targeting well Australians in at-risk jobs, such as aged care employees, emergency department personnel, general practitioners and fly-in, fly-out workers.

National Cabinet is expected to approve a massive coronavirus testing blitz. Here people are being tested in their cars at Blackwater. Picture: Steve Vit
National Cabinet is expected to approve a massive coronavirus testing blitz. Here people are being tested in their cars at Blackwater. Picture: Steve Vit

The plan for "surveillance testing" is the latest move in the war against what has become an invisible enemy already linked to 103 Australian deaths, including a 30-year-old coal miner from Blackwater in Central Queensland, Nathan Turner, who died at home this week.

Mr Turner was by far the youngest Australian to die after having developed COVID-19 and was the first case of the pandemic coronavirus recorded in Queensland's outback among the state's 1058 known infections.

How Mr Turner, who had not attended work at the Jellinbah mine since last November, acquired SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, remains a mystery but public health officials have not ruled out a fly-in, fly-out worker may have brought the virus into the town.

Nathan Turner, 30, died at home in Blackwater this week and later tested positive to coronavirus.
Nathan Turner, 30, died at home in Blackwater this week and later tested positive to coronavirus.

Testing for the novel coronavirus has so far been mainly confined to Queenslanders who develop symptoms, no matter how mild, such as a cough, sore throat or a fever.

But Queensland has scope to do more than double the testing already taking place with Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young telling a news conference yesterday the state had capacity to perform about 10,000 tests for the virus a day.

"For us to go forward and to lift those very onerous restrictions that have been in place now we must do more testing," Dr Young said.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says authorities need to do more testing before restrictions can be eased. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says authorities need to do more testing before restrictions can be eased. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

Testing of targeted groups may pick up asymptomatic cases who could be silently spreading the virus without knowing they even have it.

Since testing for SARS-CoV-2 began in January, Queensland has performed more than 184,000 tests for the virus, including 3618 in the latest 24-hour period.

Federation will also come under the microscope as leaders debate the future of the National Cabinet and the possibility it could replace the Council of Australian Governments as the peak intergovernmental forum.

Retail worker Annalisse Bayliss, who would usually catch the train to work four times a week said she was cautious of social distancing on the train.

"I do try to keep my distance at the moment, but there's a lot of people that forget on the train," she said.

The Toombul woman said she had only started catching the train again this week, as her Manly workplace reopened on Monday after being closed for nine weeks.

"I've just started working again and I think the trains will only get busier."

"I would feel more safe if there was sanitiser on the train and some clear rules about distancing.

 

Originally published as The workers who'll be targeted in new virus testing blitz


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