From 11:59pm tonight, if you test COVID positive on a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), you will be considered a “probable” case and must isolate immediately for seven days. This will follow the same requirements as those who test positive from a PCR test, and any probable cases must notify their close contacts immediately. This new system is aimed to take the pressure of PCR test queues, leading to shorter wait times and faster access to clinical care.
“Rapid Antigen Tests will be the way most Victorians can confirm they have COVID-19,” said Minister for Health Martin Foley. “They are very accurate among contacts and people with symptoms, and there’ll be no queuing for hours or waiting for days for a result.”
All positive RAT results must be reported to the Department of Health through an online form or on the phone. This will help people access the information and care that they need, including financial support for isolation and monitoring for worsening systems.
Privacy will be protected and the process will include a series of questions, including a symptom check for triaging care. Translation support will be available through the Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
The online and phone system will go live on Friday January 7. All probable cases will be reported alongside confirmed cases in Victoria’s daily numbers.
Today, there were 21,997 new cases reported in Victoria.
What about PCR tests?
It’s no secret that getting a rapid antigen test is difficult at the moment. Until there is a greater supply of RATs, anyone with symptoms, or asymptomatic household contacts, can still get a PCR test if they’re unable to access any RATs.
Victoria is currently waiting for its first significant delivery of the 44 million ordered RATs.
As the supply increases, PCR testing will gradually become more reserved for critical workforce testing and confirmation of clinical diagnoses in vulnerable settings.
A PCR test will continue to be recommended for those who test positive on a RAT, but don’t have symptoms and aren’t a close contact. Meanwhile, PCR tests will be discouraged for contacts or for people with symptoms.
Changes to density quotients
A density quotient of one person per two square metres will be introduced indoors for hospitality and entertainment venues. These include restaurants, cafés, pubs, nightclubs, arcades, amusement parks, casinos and gaming venues across the state.
It is also recommended that patrons opt for seated service only, and avoid indoor dancefloors.
“Now is the right time to introduce these sensible density quotients in high-risk indoor entertainment and hospitality settings, to reduce the risk of super-spreader events that can infect hundreds,” said Foley.
If you can work from home, or study from home, you should continue to do so. If you’re visiting an aged care centre or a hospital, it’s also recommended that you take a RAT.
Non-urgent elective surgery will be temporarily reduced, to ease pressure on public and private hospitals in metropolitan Melbourne and major regional cities. Elective surgery procedures for January 6 and 7 may still occur, if it is not safe or logistically possible to postpone.
Meanwhile, all emergency surgery and urgent elective surgery will continue.
For the Premier’s statement, click here.
To read more government advice about rapid antigen tests, click here.