The Northern Territory has as reported 550 new COVID-19 cases as it relaxes testing requirements to reduce PCR queue lengths and waiting time for results.
Thursday’s new infections in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday bring the territory’s total active case load to about 3000 with 24 in hospital, four fewer than the previous day.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said 18 patients were suffering severe symptoms and one was in intensive care.
“At the moment, all things considered, the growth in numbers is fairly controlled although it is highly unlikely we have reached our peak,” Mr Gunner told reporters on Thursday.
“We do not have a high proportion of severe cases which indicates our high vaccination rate is doing its job and out testing numbers are high”.
Under new testing rules for the NT, polymerase chain reaction tests will also no longer be required to confirm a positive rapid-antigen test results, Mr Gunner said.
But people who test positive using a RAT will be required to report the result to the health department or face a hefty $5000 fine.
“While they are not as accurate as PCR tests, rapid antigen tests are still pretty accurate,” Mr Gunner said.
“At the scale we are at now with hundreds of new cases a day the margin of error of rats are no a big issue”.
Positive COVID-19 cases exiting isolation will also no longer need to take a final PCR test to confirm they are negative so long as they are not symptomatic.
Additionally, close contacts can use a RAT in first three days of isolating instead of queuing for a PCR test.
Mr Gunner said RATs delivered results far quicker than PCR tests and this was important given the speed at which the Omicron variant could spread through the community.
“We are making these changes to today because we don’t want Territorians to go through what people elsewhere went through over Christmas and New Year,” Mr Gunner said.
“We don’t want you stuck in queues for eight or nine hours waiting for a test and we don’t want you stuck at home waiting for five , six or seven days waiting for a result”.
Mr Gunner said the change would keep Territorians safe and let them get on with their lives.
The NT detected 352 new cases on Wednesday, 594 on Tuesday, 403 on Monday, 481 on Sunday and 594 on Saturday.