Victorian health officials keep their fingers crossed for US counterparts phasing out ‘inaccurate’ PCR testing
Victoria’s health department will place millions of residents in their sixth hard lockdown instead of conducting rapid antigen tests on Covid-19 hotspots.
In an extraordinary blow to US health officials, Victorian Health Secretary Martin Foley said his health experts know better.
Last month, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned pathology labs that it would end its support for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests from Dec. 31 due to concerns about their accuracy.
Victorian Health Secretary Martin Foley rejects US advice on PCR testing
Thousands of people affiliated with Al-Taqwa College in western Melbourne have been told to isolate themselves. But a statewide lockdown looms
People are seen Thursday at the Wolf Cafe & Eatery in Altona North after it was announced by the government as a Tier 1 site.
QUICK TESTS END SLOVAK LOCKDOWN
In October and November, Slovakia tested a large percentage of its population in several rounds of massive rapid antigen testing.
Determined not to enter another lockdown, two rounds of rapid mass testing saw the prevalence of Covid fall by more than half.
While the approach may not work everywhere, the findings supported population-wide rapid testing, in conjunction with other measures, as an important tool in fighting the pandemic.
PCR tests, which require pathological testing in a lab, remain the only tests available to the general public.
Thousands of Melburnians have been told to isolate themselves after a school teacher from Al-Taqwa College in Truganina – west of Melbourne – tested positive for the Delta strain of the virus.
On Thursday morning, seven new locally acquired Covid infections were announced, including a man who works at Caroline Springs and plays football for Newport Football Club – also in Melbourne’s west.
Diagnostic experts have long argued that using rapid antigen tests, which cost about $15 and provide results in minutes, can immediately isolate infected people and prevent nationwide lockdowns.
They have also been proven to be adopted by people who would normally resist a more intrusive PCR test.
Victoria’s health department has denied use of the rapid antigen tests to the general public.
“Rapid antigen testing is an important part of a much broader field of how testing is done,” Mr Foley said on Thursday.
‘Rapid antigen testing is not as accurate as PCR. Rapid antigen testing has been widely used in other parts of the world where Covid is rampant and in those circumstances is another part of the arsenal for how testing is done.”
A health worker performs rapid antigen mass testing at a station in Thailand
People wearing protective gear are seen at Al-Taqwa College in Truganina after a Covid-19 scare
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews expected to announce Victoria’s sixth lockdown
His comments come on the one-year anniversary of Victoria’s biggest day of Covid infections.
On August 5 last year, Victoria would peak with 725 recorded cases and the state was plunged into a second deadly wave that cost 820 lives.
Diagnostic experts have long argued that the use of rapid antigen testing on aged care workers and visitors could have prevented the loss of life.
A defiant Mr Foley, who on Thursday would not rule out the possibility of Victorians being locked up again tonight, claimed that rapid antigen testing in ‘Victoria and Australia’ produced ‘an unacceptably high number of false reports’.
“The Victorian Government, and also the Australian Government … think that the most accurate and appropriate form of testing – the diamond standard form of testing – is PCR testing,” he said.
Melbourne faces another lockdown
People are tested for coronavirus in the parking lot of a medical center in Truganina
A paramedic stuffs a Covid-19 sample into a rapid antigen test kit in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir
A YEAR BIRTHDAY OF PAIN
It was August 5 last year when Victoria’s number of new cases peaked with 725 cases registered.
The panic button was pressed and metropolitan Melbourne was moved to the closure of phase four, restricting travel to a 5km radius and a curfew from 8pm to 5am.
Melburnians rushed to get their hair cut and run errands in a last minute rush.
Hairdressers, electrical and furniture stores, food courts and clothing stores all served their last customers for what they said would last until at least mid-September.
The next day, Victoria registered 471 new cases and eight more deaths.
A total of 7,449 active cases remained with 575 Victorians hospitalized with the virus – 42 of those in intensive care.
As of 12 – 34 days after the July 9 shutdown – there were currently 7,877 active cases in Victoria.
“I would have thought that football clubs, communities would want to know that the test result they get is correct.”
Foley further rejected health advice from United States health officials, who have watched more than 600,000 of its citizens die from the virus.
Last month, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged laboratories to “consider the application of a multiplex method that can facilitate the detection and differentiation of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses.”
“I’m pretty sure that the United States and other areas that are far along the path of mass vaccination processes with the highest number of positive cases and deaths are making those decisions based on (their) circumstances,” Foley said. said.
“The Australian public health response is a very different set of circumstances in relation to our number of positive cases – fortunately, however tragic, as we sadly continue to see today with five deaths in New South Wales, the conditions in Australia are different and with those different circumstances come also a different risk management.’
The health minister said rapid antigen testing amounted to “serial tests” of the same population multiple times.
Experts claim that by performing rapid antigen and rapid antibody tests in parallel with PCR tests, patients understand with a high degree of accuracy after 15 minutes whether they currently have or have had the virus.
Such tests, which are freely available in the United States and the United Kingdom, can quickly identify potential carriers at a fraction of the cost of PCR tests.
The Elm Road Family Clinic in Altona North, where a Melbourne teacher tested positive for Covid-19
A health worker collects a swab for the Covid-19 PCR test this week from a child passenger who arrives on an international flight this week at a facility at Chennai International Airport in Chennai, India
Last week, Daily Mail Australia revealed that the cost of Covid-19 testing had already stabbed Australian taxpayers at more than $1 billion.
For each PCR test performed, working Australians contribute between $42.50 and a whopping $85 each.
Mr Foley said that while rapid antigen testing may one day play a role in defending Australia’s lockdowns, it will not happen anytime soon.
“When we go to a school, a football club or an organization, we want to make sure that those tests are as accurate as possible. PCR testing is the most accurate,” he said.
“That’s not to say that at some point, while the national strategy that was basically endorsed by the national cabinet is underway, that rapid antigen testing could come into play, but right now the risks are such that – and I think people expect their tests to be as accurate as possible.’