AN 'EXPLOSION in demand' for coronavirus tests in Ballarat this week has sparked a fast recruitment in nurses to increase screening capacity at the Lucas fever clinic.
It appears a delayed onset of colds spreading from a return to on-site learning has families rushing to do the right thing and get tested, according to UFS chief Lynne McLennan.
Ms McLennan said vigilance was key, particularly as the state continued to re-open, but this push showed Ballarat families were largely doing the right thing despite a little bit of complacency in the community.
Ballarat Health Service has also reiterated testing remained the most important way to help stop the virus spread in the community.
This comes as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews implored people to continue to be tested, even for the mildest symptoms, as Melbourne took new steps to open up on Wednesday.
The 'ring of steel' about Melbourne is set to be lifted on November 8, allowing free travel back into regional Victoria.
There were 24,673 COVID-19 tests made on Tuesday, the state's highest testing day since September 4.
The UFS-led clinic, now the only free community COVID-19 test site, has become booked out in the sudden push for tests. Ms McLennan made clear urgent cases, like essential workers, could ring up for a same-day appointment.
More test appointments were becoming available as nurses joined the clinic and Ms McLennan expected the clinic to be "back on track" by the week's end.
The Ballarat testing boom was expected with UFS expecting an onset of colds with children back in school but the test onset was sudden.
On Monday morning the day was fully booked with limited tests available Tuesday but by Tuesday morning, the Lucas clinic was booked solid for three days.
Testing rates in Ballarat dipped early this month and UFS reduced its hours across seven days while the Ballarat Community Health clinic in Little Bridge Street closed.
There were 2449 people tested in City of Ballarat in the two weeks to Monday, Victorian health department data shows.
Victoria's testing chief Jeroen Weimar said there had been a 48 per cent increase in testing statewide the past two weeks and only three tests in regional Victoria, each in Shepparton, had returned positive results.
Ballarat has been COVID-free since September 9, when the last active case was cleared. Regional Victoria became COVID-free on Wednesday, the first time since May 7, when the Shepparton cases were cleared.
"But every negative test result tells us something more," Mr Weimar said.
"It tells us where the virus isn't, and gives us a good understanding of who is coming forward, the geographic spread, and where we need to keep searching to detect and control the virus.
"It is that kind of performance we need to maintain as we go forward and as restrictions ease up."
A Ballarat Health Services spokesperson said getting tested was "the easiest way we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community".
Premier Andrews said testing was critical to ensure the state had the complete picture of the virus.
"If we know that you have got it we can make sure you do not spread it," Premier Andrews said.
"I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but we want to find the cases that are there so we can wrap support around you and make sure you don't unknowingly give it to anybody, whether it be people you love and live with, or people you have never met."
Two new Victorian cases recorded on Wednesday broke a two-day run for no new active infections. There were active active cases in Victoria, all in metropolitan regions, on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, The Courier understands a combined health services approach in Ballarat remains agile to adapt if needed to increase testing demand. A large number of nursing staff who worked in Ballarat testing centres amid the peak testing blitz have returned to previous roles, like elective surgery, that have restarted.
Latest changes for regional Victoria
- Hospitality venues can increase their capacity to 40 people (four groups of 10) inside and 70 people outside
- Two adults and dependents will be able to visit a home once a day - there will no longer be a social 'bubble' where you have to nominate just one household. Infants under 12 months are not included in this cap
- Libraries will reopen with a maximum of 20 people
- Outdoor religious gatherings up to 20 people (and 50 from November 1) - infants under 12 months not included in cap
- Indoor pools will open for people aged 18 and under for up to 20 swimmers
- One-on-one hydroptherapy will be allowed
- Households can visit care facilities (rather than one person at a time)
- Outdoor contact and non-contact sport: allowed for people 18 and under - Limited to minimum number of people to play and facilitate the activity (e.g. cricket may be played with two teams of eleven players and the necessary coaching personnel and umpires)
- Outdoor non-contact sport: allowed for adults - Limited to minimum number of people to play and facilitate the activity (e.g. cricket may be played with two teams of eleven players and the necessary coaching personnel and umpires) - Non-contact means participants must be able to maintain distance of 1.5m
- 'Ring of steel' to continue and being 'strengthened' according to the premier
- Melbourne residents who own a house in regional Victoria can apply to regional councils for a permit so they can visit to prepare their homes for floods and fire. Read more about it HERE.
Changes to come into effect from November 1
- Non-contact indoor sport for under-18s - such as dance classes - will resume for up to 20 people
- Non-contact indoor community sport for under 18-year-olds: spectators limited to one parent, guardian or carer per child