Australia to expand rapid virus test trial
Australians could soon self-diagnose coronavirus through tests which return results within 15 minutes under an expanded trial.
Medical regulators are overseeing clinical trials of rapid antigen testing which is used widely around the world to detect infections.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the trial would initially expand to more supervised facilities like pharmacies before unsupervised use was considered.
"We want to make sure that every possible positive case is detected," he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
"The possibility remains over the coming months for self-diagnosis and that is not off the table at all."
Rapid tests are used in the United Kingdom, across Europe and the United States to quickly detect coronavirus.
They are considered less accurate than polymerase chain reaction tests using nose and throat swabs which are key to Australia's regime.
Some experts have suggested rapid tests could be used alongside PCR swabs to complement testing programs.
Mr Hunt said if medical advice supported the move he would like to see rapid antigen tests expanded more broadly.
Australians continue to line up for PCR tests with Sydney detecting another 207 new local cases.
Queensland extended its lockdown until at least Sunday after recording 13 new local infections, taking a Delta variant cluster to 31.
About 220,000 Indigenous and immunocompromised children aged 12 to 15 will get priority access to Pfizer vaccines.
Mr Hunt said a decision about approving the vaccine across that age group more broadly would be made within four to six weeks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned lockdowns would be crucial until immunisation coverage targets are reached.
Federal and state governments are gunning for 70 per cent of people being fully immunised to shift to a new phase in the fight against the pandemic.
Under that stage, lockdowns will be less likely while 80 per cent coverage is expected to all but end city-wide shutdowns.
Australia's rollout is gathering momentum but still lags behind most of the developed world with 19 per cent of people aged over 16 fully vaccinated.
Mr Morrison is confident the 70 per cent mark will be reached this year if enough people come forward to receive both jabs.
The prime minister said the Delta strain made heavy restrictions necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus.
He said lockdowns would become "more surgical" when Australia reached higher coverage levels.
"We start saying goodbye to them at 70 per cent and they become pretty much a thing of the past when we hit 80 per cent," he told 4BC radio.
Mr Morrison, who has come under fire for previously suggesting the rollout was not a race, is now championing a "gold medal" run to the end of the year.
Labor's health spokesman Mark Butler said 10 million people had started the week in lockdowns because of the prime minister's failure on vaccines.
"Scott Morrison claims that his vaccine rollout is a gold medal run," he said.
"You don't get a medal for running dead last. If the vaccine rollout were an Olympic event he would not even qualify."
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