Whittlesea set for testing boost

By Colin MacGillivray –

THE City of Whittlesea will see a surge in COVID-19 screening in coming weeks as one of 12 Victorian municipalities targeted for increased testing by the State Government.

Whittlesea – along with local government areas Brimbank, Colac Otway, Dandenong, Hume, Kyabram, Melbourne, Melton, Mildura, Moreland, Surf Coast and Wyndham – will see heightened testing rates between now and the end of August.

Targeted testing began last week in Mildura, Kyabram, Dandenong and Brimbank, with the full program to be rolled out in four three-week waves.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the targeted testing was in response to low testing rates, high case numbers, high-risk workforces or vulnerable community groups in each of the municipalities.

She said a boost in testing rates in these areas would provide more information about the spread of the virus and had potential to pave the way for a further easing of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

“If Victoria was a nation, our per capita testing rate would be one of the best in the world. But as we gradually ease restrictions, we won’t take any chances,” she said.

“Our massive testing blitz saw Victorians come out in huge numbers to get tested. Now, we’re strategically targeting specific communities to make sure we get the full picture.”

Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said more testing would paint a clearer picture of the health of her electorate.

While Whittlesea has fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19 than other targeted areas such as Melbourne, Brimbank, Hume and Moreland, testing rates in the area are comparatively low.

As of yesterday afternoon Whittlesea had a total of 40 confirmed cases, with six of those still active.

Ms Green said the government was working with Whittlesea council, local health services and community groups to boost testing numbers.

“Although Whittlesea is one of several local government areas that have comparatively lower rates of testing compared to other local government areas, there are a number of existing testing sites in the municipality including Northern Health and a drive-through testing site at Pacific Epping shopping centre,” she said.

“People shouldn’t wait for the targeted approach before getting tested – if they have symptoms they are encouraged to attend one of the existing sites.”

Ms Green said additional test sites could be established during the targeted testing period if required.

Ms Mikakos said the program would boost testing by increasing awareness of testing sites, establishing new testing sites and increasing promotion of testing – including in language for culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

She said there were currently more than 127 testing sites across Victoria – with a mixture of acute, GP, community and drive-through testing sites.