Testing better than average but still unanswered questions


The NT is doing better than the national average in the number of people tested for COVID-19.
According to a spokeswoman for the national Department of Health, Australia’s testing rate “based on a crude per capita comparison is just over 1,000 per 100,000 population, and so appears to be higher compared to other countries”.
The NT’s population is just under 250,000 and we had 2,753 tests conducted at the time of writing, which results in a testing rate of  around 1100 per 100,000.
Meanwhile, we wanted to understand the basis for a Territory decision not to test fellow passengers on a plane carrying an Alice Springs woman who later tested positive? (Testing would presumably have followed contact tracing.) We raised this question on Saturday. The Federal department’s spokeswoman outlined the policy that appears to have been applied.
We asked: How soon after acquiring the virus can the carrier pass it on?
The infectious period of COVID-19 remains unknown, and further research is occurring in this area. As a precautionary approach, cases are considered to be infectious 24 hours prior to onset of symptoms.
While the NT authorities refused to give details, it appears the flight was more than 24 hours before the symptoms appeared.
Other replies from the Federal spokeswoman:–
Are there symptoms-free carriers?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, sore throat and dry cough. Most patients have mild symptoms which begin gradually. Some people who are infected do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell.
How soon after acquiring the virus can testing detect it?
This will vary from case to case given incubation periods can vary across individuals ranging from 1-2 days to up to 14 days.  PCR testing will start to detect the virus once a person commences shedding the virus which predominantly coincides with when someone has symptoms. However there are reports of cases testing positive 1-2 days prior to their symptoms commencing. Likewise when symptoms resolve some cases can continue to test positive for a few days. What we don’t know is how infectious someone is when they test positive without symptoms both before symptoms commence and after they resolve.
Can testing only detect the virus if symptoms are present?
Laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2 detects the presence of the genetic material, called nucleic acid, of the actual SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is performed on a swab of nasal secretions or saliva. Tests can detect the virus early in the infection and sometimes can detect the virus in a person before they become unwell.
The spokeswoman pointed to her department’s website for further information.
These are questions from the Alice Springs News which the NT Government has not answered:-

Why were the West and East MacDonnell national parks made designated biosecurity areas which, because of the required 14 day quarantine, means they are de-facto off limits to the people of Alice Springs [with Easter this weekend]?


What are the quarantine facilities in Alice Springs at present?


How many people are quarantined there at present?


Aboriginal communities east of Alice Springs including Amoonguna and Santa Teresa are designated areas. Are there road blocks policing transitions between these communities and Alice Springs similar to the one on the South Stuart Highway at the Welcome Rock?


One Defence Forces case of CV-19 is recorded in the NT (as of 4 April). Is this case being accounted for in the NT tally? Is the person being cared for at Royal Darwin Hospital? Can you confirm that the person is an Australian citizen?

What sections of the Bio Security Act govern the testing of passengers on aircraft which carry infected persons?
Photos at top from the NT Government’s COVID-19 pages.


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