Regional NSW to get rapid virus tests

Regional NSW towns will get rapid testing for coronavirus to reduce time to confirm positive cases.
Regional NSW towns will get rapid testing for coronavirus to reduce time to confirm positive cases.

Regional NSW towns will soon have access to rapid coronavirus testing meaning samples won't have to be sent to Sydney for analysis.

Broken Hill health workers will over Easter repurpose a machine used to rapidly test flu samples so it can detect the novel coronavirus.

It should be operational by Monday and more regional areas will follow as specific hardware is imported.

"That is really important, particularly for the more distant sites," NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said on Friday.

"Having that point-of-care testing, or testing that comes back in about an hour, is very useful because it gives us more rapid identification of cases."

St Vincent's Hospital is already using its repurposed GeneXpert machine in its emergency department and will also begin trialling another molecular test in the coming days.

Of the 137,000 people tested for coronavirus in NSW since January, 70 per cent have been in Sydney or on the Central Coast.

Just 322 people in far western NSW have been tested while northern NSW and the Murrumbidgee are the two regions were there have been fewer than one test per 1000 residents.

Those three regions account for 100 positive cases.

Dr Chant defended the current turnaround time for testing - which can see results for Sydney-based cases returned within 24 hours.

"The issue for rural and remote areas is the time it takes for specimens to come down to Sydney," she said.

"As we get more (novel coronavirus) cartridges for our GeneXperts, we will be looking at deploying this test across various sites.

"We'll have a mind to supporting rural and regional communities so we can give them access to the testing that is much more prompt in the metropolitan area."

NSW has so far recorded 2822 cases and 22 deaths from COVID-19.

Australian Associated Press