NSW residents will soon need a referral to get a PCR test, with pop-up clinics set to close.
Speaking on Wednesday (19 April), Minister for Health and Minister for Regional Health Ryan Park said the decision was due to a drop in demand.
“We have clinics now where very, very, very few people are accessing and going to,” he said.
Drive-through and standalone clinics will be closed by 13 May.
There are around 165 clinics operating across the state.
The public will be able to use a rapid antigen test (RAT) to test for COVID-19 themselves or seek a referral for a PCR test from their GP.
“People can pick [RATs] up when they’re not unwell and just have them in the kitchen cupboard or in the bathroom cupboard and be able to use them as quickly as possible.”
NSW Health Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the state was seeing an increase in community transmission of COVID-19 cases.
“We’ve also seen the number of antiviral scripts dispensed in the community increasing and the number of active COVID outbreaks in residential care facilities is increasing.”
NSW Health will distribute RATs from a range of places, including councils, sports clubs and the offices of state MPs.
“We’re looking at a sort of multifaceted approach to get RATs and to make RATs more accessible,” Dr Chant said.
Meanwhile, PCR tests will be carried out at private pathology services.
In coming weeks, the community will also be dealing with increasing transmission of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and cases of bronchiolitis.
“Influenza has also increased and we’re now going to be calling the start of the flu season,” Dr Chant said.
Mr Park said the move would save the Government “millions”, but denied the decision had been made due to budget concerns.
The clinics had cost $11-12 million this year.
“We’ve got to make sure – and I’ve got a responsibility to make sure – that every dollar the taxpayer provides the Government to spend on healthcare is directed to where it’s needed most,” he said.
The NSW Government will not need to pay out the contracts for the clinics, he said.
Dr Chant also called on the public to get their flu vaccinations and make sure they were up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Mr Park said the announcement didn’t mean COVID-19 was no longer in the community.
“This is about transitioning from the peaks of the pandemic where there were literally hundreds of thousands of people getting tested to now [with] very, very few people accessing that testing arrangements.”