Central Highlands Rural Health is experiencing high demand for local COVID-19 testing. This has resulted from the rapid spread of the virus over the Christmas period. Case numbers in Victoria are now over 5000 per day and doubling every 5 days.

Bookings are required for local testing services and there may be delays depending on demand. Notification of results may also be delayed.

Information on local testing at Daylesford and Kyneton is available on the CHRH Facebook page.

Testing is also available in Ballarat. Information on Ballarat testing is available on the Ballarat Health Services website.

Rule Changes

Following today’s National Cabinet decisions the definition of a close contact has been narrowed. A close contact is now someone who has spent more than four hours with a person with COVID in a home like setting including care facilities and accommodation.

Isolation periods have also been reduced. People who have COVID or who are a close contact of someone with COVID will now have to isolate for 7 days.

Requirements for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests have been reduced. Close contacts who have no symptoms and get a negative test result on a rapid antigen test (RAT) don’t have to get a PCR test. But if close contacts test positive on a RAT they do have to go and get a PCR test.

COVID cases and close contacts can leave isolation after seven days if they return a negative RAT on day six .

The aim of the changes is take pressure off testing facilities like those available locally and to reduce the impact of isolation on people, including health workers, as case numbers predictably go through the roof.

The Prime Minister has said the new rules come into operation tonight.

However, National Cabinet has made today’s announcements without providing clear information on how the new arrangements will operate.

There are many questions about how the new arrangements will work in practice, including where people will be able to get RATs, whether they will do the testing at a clinic or at home and how their testing will be monitored. Add to this the massive shortage of RATS currently.

As well, different States are taking different approaches. At the time of publication Victoria had not yet updated its official information.

The Australian Medical Association has criticised the new rules. Dr Omar Khorshid, the AMA President said, “We will miss so many cases with this new more narrow definition of a close contact.”

As the Omicron variant spreads, it is anticipated that case numbers will rise massively over the next month.

The impact on hospitalisations and deaths is unclear because it appears Omicron is less serious than earlier variants of COVID. But hospital numbers are already increasing rapidly in New South Wales where cases are escalating dramatically.