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More sites, longer hours as test demand surges

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South Australia’s daily COVID testing rates have surged to their highest levels in three months as authorities look to manage demand with longer operating hours and more clinics opening for testing.

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SA Health conducted 7042 COVID-19 tests on Thursday – the most recorded in the state since February 12 when Victoria was dealing with an earlier COVID outbreak.

The numbers came after recently returned travellers from Victoria flocked to testing sites across the state, resulting in wait times of up to three hours at Adelaide’s main drive through testing facility in Victoria Park and causing traffic delays in the CBD.

Similar wait times are also observed at the drive-through testing facility at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre and the Repat Health Precinct in Daw Park.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said Commonwealth-run GP respiratory clinics in SA would soon be opening their doors to test people for COVID even if they do not have symptoms.

“Generally, when we don’t have problems, those GP respiratory clinics will only test you if you have symptoms,” Spurrier said.

“But I’ve sent a request through to the Commonwealth to ask for those to be switched over to accept asymptomatic testing.”

Premier Steven Marshall defended the State Government’s preparedness for the testing surge despite frustration from those waiting in line.

“We’ve kept a very very good capacity across our testing facilities in South Australia,” Marshall told reporters on Thursday.

“We’re able to flex up, we were able to extend those hours [on Wednesday] and we’ll do that again today.

“I was very pleased that we conducted more than 7500 tests from a standing start … when we didn’t anticipate that we would be anywhere near that.”

There are 124 people in South Australia who have been identified as “close contacts” of positive cases in Victoria and are currently completing 14-days quarantine.

Of those, 104 have already returned negative day one test results.

Spurrier said SA Health is still waiting to hear from around 30,000 travellers from Victoria who have returned to South Australia since May 6.

SA Health has sent those travellers text alerts with a survey asking them whether they have been to any of Victoria’s exposure sites, with Spurrier urging those who have yet to respond to do so “as soon as possible”.

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