Healthcare workers in the ACT will be tested for coronavirus as a way to signal early whether transmission of COVID-19 is occurring within Canberra.
Three new cases of coronavirus were identified in the ACT on Saturday, and all nine people all are believed to have contracted it interstate or overseas.
While testing of the general population is limited to those who have travelled abroad in the past 14 days or who have come in contact with a known case of coronavirus, health care workers have been tested on the basis of symptoms alone.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said testing health care workers who had come in contact with patients would offer an early signal if community transition began to occur in the ACT.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the health care workers tests would provide "a bit of a control group of those who do not meet that criteria" of having travelled overseas or been in contact with a known case of coronavirus.
"And so far none of those tests have come back positive, they have all come back negative," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"So I think it's really important for Canberrans to understand that while we see a lot of commentary about test, test, test internationally - and that is one of the things that work - we know that is one of the things that works and that is why in Australia and in the ACT we have one of the highest testing rates in the world.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT would continue to put resources into maintaining that high testing rate.
"We are testing at a nationally-agreed standard and our nurses and our ACT pathology staff and our GPs who are still undertaking a collection of specimen for testing are doing an absolutely fantastic job testing those who need to be tested in the ACT," she said.
"I know that there are people who are asking why we are not testing every person who is symptomatic in the ACT and the reason is ... our test resources are not limitless, we need to target those resources at those who people who are most likely to have come into contact with COVID-19."
More than 2200 people had been tested in the ACT as of Saturday morning, with nine confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The three new cases of the virus announced on Saturday included a man in his 70s who travelled on flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney, a woman in her 60s who travelled on flight QR906 from Doha to Canberra and a woman in her 50s who recently returned from overseas.
All three new cases had abided by self-isolation regulations and ACT Health were making contact with all those who may have had close contact with the travellers.
ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said physical distancing and good hygiene, as well as case identification and contact quarantine, were important measures to continue to control the outbreak.
"While this is a rapidly evolving situation we continue to use the best available information that we have to inform the decisions that we're making," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"ACT health staff are working tirelessly to make contact with any close contact of any confirmed cases as a priority."
"This means if you need to be contact, we will be in touch with you."
- For information on COVID-19, please go to the ACT Health website or federal Health Department's website.
- You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080
- If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000)
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