COVID testing ramped up for staff at Howard Springs quarantine
HEALTH authorities are looking to introduce regular rapid testing for staff at the Howard Springs quarantine facility to significantly decrease the risk of COVID-19 spreading to the wider community.
The National Critical Care and Trauma Centre (NCCTRC) will soon receive about 2500 rapid antigen tests from Australian-based company Respond Global.
An NCCTRC spokeswoman said the antigen tests would provide "additional surveillance for COVID-19" for staff dealing with international arrivals.
"The NCCTRC also continues to use PCR tests which are the gold standard and most accurate to diagnose COVID-19 and in line with national guidelines," she said.
Respond Global managing director Ian Norton, previously director of disaster preparedness and response at NCCTRC, said the antigen test results took just 10 minutes to produce a result and were around 90 per cent effective.
"Because it's much faster, quarantine staff could now be regularly tested every three or four days," Dr Norton said.
"We know COVID spreading outside of quarantine centres to the community via staff has been the cause of the latest community outbreak in Adelaide and Victoria's second wave.
"This shows we shouldn't just rely on strong quarantine protocols; there needs to be an extra layer of surety for staff, for their families and their local community with regular testing."
It comes as the first locally acquired infections of South Australia's new cluster have been traced to a cleaner working at a hotel in central Adelaide that housed quarantine travellers.
The state's policy of only testing quarantine workers when they have coronavirus symptoms has drawn wide criticism as the cluster grows to 20.
Mr Norton said the Howard Springs Centre for National Resilience would become the first quarantine facility in the nation to bring in rapid testing for staff.
"These forms of tests are already used in Europe, the US and other countries for high-risk staff screening in health, aged care and manufacturing but Australia has been slower to take it up," he said.
"We know many of these international arrivals are really high-risk groups, and we need to ensure staff dealing with them directly are regularly tested to make sure the Territory community remains protected."
Originally published as COVID testing ramped up for staff at Howard Springs quarantine facility