NSW Health released new guidance for testing protocols for NSW residential aged care facilities (RACFs) with a COVID-19 outbreak or exposure. The purpose of the protocol is to provide a clear framework for testing requirements.
NSW Health may provide specific testing directions for COVID-19 exposures or outbreaks in residential aged care. However, the testing protocol provides a guidance framework to support RACFs to actively self-manage their testing requirements.
Consistent with the recent National Cabinet decision in relation to PCR testing requirements, the testing protocol makes recommendations in relation to both PCR testing and Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT).
In line with the updated testing guidance issued nationally, PCR tests are not being used for surveillance testing where there are no outbreaks or exposures. This approach is also being adopted for aged care and testing services through SONIC will not include surveillance testing of asymptomatic staff and residents. Residential aged care facilities are encouraged to use RATs for surveillance testing where required.
We recognise that some residential aged care facilities may experience difficulties in gaining timely access to PCR testing services or RAT tests. You are encouraged to access the testing option that you are most quickly able to access.
Requests for access to PCR testing through the supplementary Sonic in-reach program can only be accepted via the Commonwealth Department of Health case manager. Please note requests will be processed in order of receipt and the case manager will advise the facility when collection kits or testing teams are booked.
Residential aged care facilities with a COVID outbreak or exposure can requests RATs from the National Medical Stockpile. Due to the extremely high demand for RAT kits, we are prioritising immediate distribution to outbreak and exposure sites. We recommend that you place your order at least 5 working days ahead of that date that you will require delivery. To place your order, please complete the online form. Orders placed through the online form can be processed more quickly. Please do not submit orders via email to your Commonwealth Case Manager.
Further details on broader distribution of RATs to the sector will be available in coming days.