It is Hard to get COVID tests and likely to get Harder
1 January 2022
The numbers of COVID cases are rising dramatically, many of the clinics have closed for Christmas, and Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) have sold out from most chemists. You might wonder why this wasn’t anticipated, but it seems that the strategy of ‘Let ‘er Rip’ was meant to stimulate the economy as everyone assumed that either COVID was over, or that the Omicron variant did not matter, (not that Delta had actually gone away).
In fact the people have been mostly quite sensible and are not going out and are wearing masks and isolating, which of course means two things.
1. The ‘Let ‘er Rip’ strategy is not getting the economy back to normal and
2. The government can say that it is not their fault if people choose not to go out and spend, so they don’t need to support business or anyone else.
Here is an explanation of the PCR test unavailability from Kim Hatton:
‘Some people today have been wondering why the Feds are pushing so strongly to reduce PCR testing for COVID and shift to RAT. Yes of course the path labs are overloaded but there’s more to the story than that. Currently Medicare pays $110 for a PCR test, split between the path lab and whoever is collecting the sample. With tests reaching 270,000 a day that’s basically $30million per day out of fed budget.
The plan is to reduce PCR tests down to around 50,000 a day saving $24 million a day.To fill the gap the plan is to use Rapid Antigen Tests which cost around $10 in bulk. The Feds will fund 50% of whatever the states buy. In theory the states would buy enough to bridge the gap ie 220,000 per day costing them $1.1 million and the Feds the same. Meaning fed expenditure drops from $30m per day to $7million.
However that assumes the states buy enough which they haven’t. NSW has placed an order for 2 million which won’t even last 2 weeks assuming infection rates don’t increase – which of course they will.In practice what is more likely to happen is the the public will fund the majority of RATests themselves saving the Govt at least another million a day.
That million a day then becomes part of the economy which comes out as economic growth the federal government has achieved and will use to argue how good a job they’ve done.’ End Quote
This seems quite plausible to me- I will chase the source.
The other aspect is that if you do not have a PCR test and do not go to hospital, you are not recorded as a COVID case, so the statistics look better.
I personally had a contact and did a PCR at about midday on Friday 24th and got a text with a negative result at 4am on Tuesday 27th- 3 days and 16 hours later. If this blows out much more the test is virtually useless, as you would have had to isolate anyway.
It seems if we do not have a PCR test, and/or everyone does their own Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and then monitors their own health with or without a $20 oximeter to make sure that their oxygen saturation is normal and over 95%, the whole epidemic can be ignored except for the ones so sick as to go to hospital.
This seems to be the effect of the new guidelines as in the SMH. Here is the ‘Do It Yourself’ article from the SMH:
More COVID cases told to manage themselves at home as tests hit ‘bottleneck’
By Mary WardSydney Morning Herald December 28, 2021 — 6.38pm
Private pathology companies have warned that NSW’s rising coronavirus cases are creating a “bottleneck” in the testing system as more people who catch COVID-19 are being directed to manage their infections from home.
On Tuesday, NSW Health updated its advice for people who are COVID-positive, directing that most people aged 65 and under are considered able to recover from the virus without medical involvement.
Under the new rules, people in this age group who have had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, do not suffer from any chronic conditions and are not pregnant are considered able to safely manage an infection at home.
Previously, this was only the case for people aged under 50.Of the 42,600 COVID-19 cases reported in the state over the past seven days, fewer than 7 per cent of infections were in people aged 60 and older. About 3400 were aged in their 50s.
Those managing an infection at home should also not expect to be “cleared” from isolation by NSW Health. Instead, they may leave after day 10 of their isolation, even if they do not hear from NSW Health in a text message on this date, provided they have not experienced symptoms in the previous 72 hours.
NSW Health advice for managing common COVID-19 symptoms at home
• Cough: Breathe in steam and sip on fluids. Avoid lying on your back. If you are coughing up mucous, it is important to continue to do this as it reduces risk of a chest infection.
• Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea: Eat plain, low fibre foods. Have six smaller meals instead of three. Do not drink alcohol or caffeine. Stay hydrated.
• Fever: Take paracetemol. Put a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead. Wipe your arms and body with a cool cloth.
Source: NSW Health
“It is important that this information is provided to people who are at lower risk of severe illness to allow NSW Health to focus on those who have the greatest risk of poor outcomes, this includes people over the age of 65,” a NSW Health spokesperson said.
“Regardless of age, people are also provided clear advice about what to do if they start to feel worse or in the case of a medical emergency.
”People who have a chronic condition – such as obesity, a severe, chronic or complex medical condition, diabetes – are immunocompromised, have severe mental illness or are pregnant are urged to contact the COVID-19 Care at Home Support Line on 1800 960 933 if they return a positive PCR test to receive further medical assistance.
Last week, Australian Medical Association NSW president Danielle McMullen warned that doctors would struggle to cope with thousands of patients needing virtual care as health authorities flagged they would increasingly rely on the GP network to manage COVID-19.
Tuesday’s public holiday again meant some testing clinics were forced to shut within hours of opening, as wait times for PCR results blew out to more than four days despite the system processing fewer tests than it had previously.
There were 93,581 COVID-19 tests processed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, down from the previous day’s total of 97,241 and nowhere near upwards of 150,000 tests done in September. NSW Health’s Christine Selvey said testing in the state was “under enormous pressure”, urging people to only have a PCR test if they had symptoms, were a household contact of a case or had been advised by NSW Health about attending a high transmission venue.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said he believed up to 30 per cent of tests were for interstate travel, as he and Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged the Queensland government to ease requirements for people to return a negative PCR test before crossing the border, after it scrapped a day five test for people who had already travelled to the state due to pressure on its own system.
“If we can move that PCR requirement to a rapid antigen test requirement that will significantly alleviate some of the pressure on the testing over summer,” Mr Perrottet said.Mr Hazzard said he had asked NSW Health and the federal government to reconsider whether two tests completed by returned international travellers who come through Sydney Airport needed to be PCRs, in light of the delays.
He also asked the ministry to look into recommending rapid antigen tests were used to screen pregnant women ahead of birth after the Herald revealed women had been queueing for tests every 72 hours on the advice of some hospitals.
But while private pathology labs said so-called “tourism testing” did account for some of delay, a higher volume of positive tests was also to blame. More than 6 per cent of tests reported on Tuesday were positive, up from about 2 per cent the previous week.
Greg Granger, director of strategic operations at Histopath, said the proportion of tests which were positive had created “one of the biggest bottlenecks” in the system.
Mr Granger said the method of PCR testing large volumes of samples – where samples are pooled and tested in groups – worked well when fewer than 1 per cent of tests were positive and most “pools” of tests could be cleared as negative.
“When there’s a positive in the pool every single time, you essentially have to double or triple test the samples,” he said, noting laboratories were now needing to figure out, with their available instruments, what a more efficient method would be.
“Obviously in an ideal world, you don’t pool at all. But with these sheer numbers you just can’t … it’s about finding where the balance is.
”A spokesperson for St Vincent’s Hospital, which operates the SydPath clinics, agreed positive tests took longer to confirm in its laboratory than negative ones.
They said the process of reporting a positive case to NSW Health was also “more significant” than the administration needed for a negative test.Despite the high demand, SydPath clinics will operate at reduced hours “in order to maintain the quality of [its] testing”, after more than 800 people were incorrectly sent negative test results over the weekend due to human error. The provider asked people to not attend its clinics, including the Bondi Beach drive-through, seeking a test for interstate travel.
Australian National University infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake said the state’s high positivity rate meant it was likely more infections were being missed by testing. However, he said, an upside of this was that the hospitalisation rate of Sydney’s Omicron wave was likely even lower than reported.
“At this stage, it does seem like the current infections are resulting in significantly fewer hospitalisations than we saw with Delta,” he said.
There were 557 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals on Tuesday, including 60 in intensive care, compared to 168 in hospital a fortnight ago. NSW’s COVID-19 hospitalisations reached a peak of 1266 in mid-September, including 244 in intensive care.