Dr Chris Gill, Dr Jane De Keyser and Dr Bill Smith from Affinity Family Medical in Cannonvale.
Dr Chris Gill, Dr Jane De Keyser and Dr Bill Smith from Affinity Family Medical in Cannonvale.

How test widening can ‘help us get back to normal life’

QUEENSLAND Health has announced it would be expanding its COVID-19 testing criteria so anyone in the state who has a fever, history of fever or acute respiratory symptoms can be tested, a decision which has been applauded this week in North Queensland.

Cannonvale’s Affinity Family Medical Doctor Bill Smith said the new criteria for coronavirus testing was “fantastic”.

Previously, anyone seeking testing had to be symptomatic and in one of the three ‘hotspots’ – the Gold Coast, Brisbane or Cairns – or they had to meet the travel criteria.

“Now they can be living anywhere,” Dr Smith said.

“With this new phase of the pandemic, where we have been successful in flattening the curve, we can find those last few cases and do contact tracing and isolation.”

The directive from Queensland Health stated that if you’re unwell and you met the criteria, you should contact a doctor immediately, and your doctor would decide if you needed to be tested.

People are asked to phone ahead and tell their medical centre about their symptoms so their visit could be prepared for.

Dr Smith said there hadn’t been any new cases in the region over the past three weeks.

“And I suspect if there were new cases, they would have presented,” he said.

The benefits of the new testing parameters were that people who potentially had coronavirus with mild or no symptoms could now be checked, and it is hoped the spread of the disease will be slowed.

“It widens our net to catch the less serious cases,” Dr Smith said.

“That’s important to allow us to get back to a normal life and continue to flatten the curve and allow state and federal governments to ease up on our social isolation restrictions.

“While long distance travel is not allowed, I feel optimistic there will be very few new cases in the region.

“The problem will come once travel is allowed again – which is necessary for our economy.”

Dr Smith encouraged people to check-in with their doctors as needed.

“Don’t put off seeing your doctor and don’t put off your normal health screening or managing your disease,” he said.

“Phone your doctor and discuss any concerns or respiratory issues with them.”

He encouraged people to continue with thorough hygiene practices and social distancing, as well as spending time outdoors to maintain and manage their mental health.

“From Saturday, they’ve eased the restrictions so from this weekend do consider visiting a park or getting in the water.”

Dr Smith said he had “definitely” noticed a rise anxiety, stress and stress-related conditions.

He recommended people maintain contact with their friends, family and support networks “even if it’s electronic”.

“And do get out and about, take a walk and maintain your exercise,” he said.

The Mackay Hospital and Health Service has updated its Facebook page with the new testing criteria, outlining that acute respiratory symptoms include a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.

“As always, if you are unwell your doctor will decide if you need to be tested for COVID-19 based on your symptoms, history of travel, contact with a confirmed case and other factors such as where you live or work,” the post says.

For local information on COVID-19, phone (07) 4885 5666 from 8am-4pm, 7 days.