As the number of COVID cases in Tasmania continues to rise, state test clinics have been flooded with an increase in demand.
Part of Tasmania’s border reopening plan required travelers to have a negative PCR test in the 72 hours before entering the state, but from January 1, rapid antigen tests will be accepted.
But as we begin to live with COVID, test goal posts in Tasmania have changed – here’s what you need to know.
When should I go to a test clinic?
Under the changes announced by the state government yesterday, PCR testing is now being prioritized for those who are symptomatic or have a positive rapid antigen test (RAT).
This is to ease the pressure on Tasmania’s PCR testing systems, especially in the south, which have seen a large number of asymptomatic people present for testing.
“Over the last three days, we’ve had between two-thirds and three-quarters of the booking referrals coming from asymptomatic people,” State Health Secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said yesterday.
Only those who have COVID symptoms, a positive RAT test or are close contacts with symptoms are eligible to have a PCR test at one of the state test clinics.
Which test should I use?
It depends on your situation and whether you are experiencing symptoms.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you can call the Public Health hotline, who will arrange a time when you can get a PCR test at one of the state clinics.
You can also call the hotline and arrange a PCR test if you are close to a positive case and have symptoms.
But the state says that anyone who does not experience symptoms, including close contacts, does not need to get a PCR test in the first place – instead, you can take a RAT test.
If that test is positive, you can call the Public Health hotline and say that your RAT test has given a positive result and you will then be booked to get a PCR test.
Prime Minister Peter Gutwein said this approach “is in line with other jurisdictions both around the world and here in Australia”.
If your PCR test comes back positive, you will be referred to isolate in accordance with state guidelines for COVID management.
Where do I get a quick test?
Quick tests can be purchased at pharmacies, supermarkets and even selected gas stations.
Recent increases in demand for the tests have seen limited inventory, but retailers say inventory arrives regularly.
Prices for the tests vary between retailers, but cost around $ 10-20 for a single test and are often sold in packs of two, five or 10.
Some retailers have sold five-test kits for around $ 50, but the price can fluctuate between tests and whether they require nose or saliva samples.
To help control the demand for the rapid tests, the state government also provides them free of charge to travelers at its lakes and airports, as well as those who are close contacts in a COVID case but do not experience symptoms.
In the south of the state, where the most acute test pressure is felt, two RAT test collection points will be established at Rokeby on Hobart’s east coast and Glenorchy in Hobart’s northern suburbs.
These distribution sites are operated by the Ministry of Health and are not yet being expanded outside of southern Tasmania.
“This RAT initiative will only occur currently in the South, as PCR testing usually works in our North and Northwest locations,” Morgan-Wicks said.
Currently, Tasmania has 500,000 RAT tests in its stock to meet this, and has ordered an additional 2 million sets that will arrive in the coming month.
What is a ‘close contact’ now?
Tasmania has signed the national definition of close contact, which was adopted by all states and territories at a national cabinet meeting yesterday.
This means that a close contact is a person who has spent four or more hours with a positive COVID case in a household or a household-like environment.
Sir. Gutwein said that this decision was to ensure “national coherence” and to avoid “putting unnecessary pressure on people to be quarantined when the risk of them being contagious is in fact very low”.
“The public health certificate shows that those living in the same household are in similar conditions, such as housing or care facilities, which [COVID] cases have the highest chances of being positive, so the focus will be on targeting these types of places, “Mr Gutwein said.
The change in defining close contacts also means that public health authorities will deal with potential close contacts in one place or place from case to case.
I’m a close contact. How long should I isolate?
If you have been identified as a close contact by a positive case in Tasmania, you will be asked to isolate yourself for seven days, regardless of your vaccination status.
However, you will also need to take a RAT test on days one and six of your isolation, which will be provided to you by the state government.
Previously, those vaccinated against COVID had to isolate themselves for seven days, while the unvaccinated had to spend 14 days in quarantine.
I’m on my way to the mainland on holiday, should I test when I get back?
Lucky you! During these changes, you only need to take a RAT test before heading home to Tasmania and make sure you declare your negative result on your Tas e-Travel application.
You will also be provided with a RAT test upon your arrival at the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry Terminal or one of the state airports and you will be asked to use it if you develop symptoms.
However, if you have been away for less than seven days, you will be asked to take a RAT test when you arrive – and it will be given to you when you land at home.
I’m coming to Tasmania on vacation, what should I do?
Before paying a visit to the island state, you will be asked to take a RAT test and declare your negative result on your Tas e-Travel application.
You do not have to bring your proof of a negative test – your statement when registering your trip is probably from 1 January – but you still need proof of vaccination to enter.
You will also be given a RAT test when you arrive and will be asked to take it if you have symptoms while you are here and if it has a positive result, you can arrange a PCR test.
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