Therefore, we must continue to be tested for COVID until further notice


With more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 detected every day in a country of 25 million people, and contact tracing essentially abandoned, some Australians ask why they should continue to be tested for the virus at all and whether these results should be collected by the authorities.

These are good questions with complex answers, according to public health experts, who have different views on what the next phase of testing should look like when the virus becomes endemic.

A traveler will receive a COVID-19 test prior to his flight at a Histopath test clinic at Sydney Airport on Tuesday.

A traveler will receive a COVID-19 test prior to his flight at a Histopath test clinic at Sydney Airport on Tuesday.Credit:Bloomberg

Epidemiologist Greg Dore of the University of NSW said the transition to rapid antigen testing was good, as it was still important to capture as many cases as possible – without being “completely obsessed” with the numbers.

Better data, especially on people’s age, gender, place of residence and vaccination status, would provide a clearer picture of how the virus was detected, a preview of what can happen to admissions over the coming weeks and prepare us for likely future variants.

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“It’s just really important information to give us a more comprehensive picture of the cases that are being discovered,” Professor Dore said. The future variants would hopefully be milder again, but “we need a little more time to know if that’s the pattern”.

People who have already received Omicron do not need to be tested again if they are ill within the next six months, Professor Dore said. But “come winter, if there is a new variant that has appeared, if you got sick, you would probably like to go and be tested again”.

Peter Collignon, an infectious disease doctor at the Australian National University, said most healthy, vaccinated people under 50 did not need a PCR test. It was desirable that they got a RAT and reported the result, but it should not be mandatory and there should certainly be no fines, he said.

“While we were doing COVID zero and repression to really low levels, it was really important to capture it all,” Professor Collignon said. “Trying to capture all the cases at the moment is pointless … we need a change.”

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