In a ground breaking and critically important partnership between the Australian Government, Minderoo Foundation and private pathology providers, Australia has secured an additional 10 million COVID-19 test kits and pathology equipment to be installed across the country.
Over 500,000 COVID-19 tests have been completed to date. The addition of 10 million tests across the country between now and the end of the year equates to an almost 20 fold increase in testing.
This increased testing capability is critical to enabling Australia to expand the testing criteria for COVID-19, and providing National Cabinet with the confidence that widespread surveillance testing and expanded testing is achievable and adequately resourced.
This is one of the precedent conditions the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) have set for the National Cabinet to achieve over the next four weeks before the further easing of social distancing and economic restrictions.
Further, the diversification of COVID-19 testing supplies in Australia ensures adequate testing capability whilst there are uncertain supply lines and shortages globally.
Expanded testing will also protect health care and essential workers on the front line, and ensures the health care systems remain strong and resilient to future challenges.
The Government’s national aim is simple, suppress the virus, increase testing and tracing, and slowly ease the restrictions and allow Australians to get back to work.
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said, “I particularly want to thank Andrew and Nicola Forrest and the Minderoo Foundation for their instrumental work in helping to secure this critical additional testing capacity for Australia.”
“Our approach to testing in Australia, already one of the highest rates per capita in the world, has been a vital part of our success in flattening the infection curve.”
“As we move to the next stage of our recovery, further expanding testing capacity and case ascertainment is one of the three critical steps we can take to protect Australians, avoid further spikes in community transmission and assist in easing restrictions.”
“The work of the Minderoo Foundation in helping to secure these high quality PCR tests and equipment helps protect the Australian public, diversifies supply lines and provides us with a fundamental testing capacity for COVID-19. All of this affirms and strengthens our essential pathway out of the current restrictions and our investability as a Nation,” Minister Hunt said.
Australian Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy said expansion of COVID-19 testing is an important part of the enhanced public health response.
“Testing is necessary to detect and control outbreaks, if physical distancing, measures are to be relaxed,” Professor Murphy said.
“The AHPPC is advising the National Cabinet on an expanded testing program that will have an initial strong focus on testing anyone who has acute respiratory symptoms (coughs, colds, sore throat etc), widespread testing of contacts of COVID-19 cases and selected cohort studies, such as frontline health and aged care workers.”
Minderoo, a philanthropic organisation chaired by Australian businessman, Dr Andrew Forrest, has been able to source critical pathology equipment and testing supplies on behalf of the Australian Government.
Dr Forrest said that during times of national emergency and crisis, all parts of society had to come together in the national interest.
“There are many reasons that increasing testing capacity is so critical,” Dr Forrest said.
“It allows Government to isolate the virus instead of the entire population and extinguish its growth instead of our economy.
“It provides the confidence the Government requires to lift restrictions to rapidly expedite getting the country back to work.
“By connecting people from across the commercial, research and health care sectors, we’ve been able to accelerate the set-up of new equipment, to help pull Australia out of its economic deep freeze,” Dr Forrest said.
The COVID-19 test kits and equipment will be supplied by the Beijing Genomic Institute (BGI), Thermo Fisher and Tecan.
The Government will enter into supply contracts with private pathology providers, including Sonic Healthcare and Healius, for the 13 BGI and 14 Tecan laboratory systems to expand testing in every state and territory.