State health officials will launch a mass testing blitz in Melbourne’s north and west in a bid to find any remaining COVID-19 cases among the 500,000 people who live in two of the city’s most populous council areas.
Health Department officials met with Hume and Wyndham council officers at the weekend, sources close to the discussions have confirmed, to discuss the best way to roll out the testing program.
The blitz will be Victoria’s first widespread asymptomatic testing for coronavirus – meaning anyone will be tested whether they have symptoms or not.
Some asymptomatic testing was conducted door-to-door when the first Melbourne postcodes went into lockdown in June.
Until now regular testing of the general population has generally been of people with coronavirus symptoms, no matter how mild.
Wyndham and Hume, along with Brimbank, have been hardest hit in Victoria in terms of coronavirus infections. Wyndham has recorded 2265 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while 2015 Brimbank residents have been diagnosed with the illness.
The testing drive is intended to pick up any undetected cases that might still exist in those former COVID hotspots. It would be the biggest single testing effort the state has attempted so far during the coronavirus pandemic.
There are currently no active cases in Melbourne’s north or west.
It will dwarf the largest testing blitz the Andrews government undertook across Melbourne in late June, when coronavirus cases slowly began increasing. The aim then was to swab 100,000 people over 10 days in 10 “problem” suburbs, including Broadmeadows.
The mass testing plans came to light ahead of Victoria recording its 11th consecutive day of no new infections or coronavirus deaths last Tuesday, after a diagnosis of the illness on November 8 of a man who had travelled from Western Australia was deemed by officials to be a false positive.
Government ministers said that there were no plans to rethink the state’s policy on mandatory face masks, with both Health Minister Martin Foley and Danny Pearson, the Creative Industries Minister, saying face coverings remained a valuable tool in the state’s efforts to keep the virus under control.