Issue #103
June 2020
Testing times – keeping our communities safe

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, information gained from pathology testing has helped to successfully guide the public health response and this will continue to keep our communities safe as restrictions begin to ease. RCPA Vice President, Dr Lawrie Bott explains that maintaining high levels of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19, and an effective public health approach, is key to managing the risk of new outbreaks in Australia and New Zealand.

“An effective public health response requires information gained from pathology testing to support decision-making in every setting. By using this information during the pandemic, infected individuals have been rapidly identified, isolated and treated. This has allowed for efficient contact tracing and management to take place, therefore limiting the spread of the disease and protecting the vulnerable. In the weeks ahead, the RCPA anticipates that a high level of testing will remain and is available to anyone who displays symptoms.”

Throughout the pandemic, a wide range of actions taken by the Australian and New Zealand governments were put into place, based on information derived from pathology testing. In the same way, this information was required across the entire healthcare system, including, epidemiologists, hospitals and community doctors.

“No diagnosis can be made, and no treatment undertaken without a pathology test; and this has never been so apparent as during the COVID-19 crisis. The medical and health system simply does not function without accurate diagnoses, which enables the best possible treatment for patients,” said Dr Bott.

Since the start of the outbreak, around 1,600,000 PCR tests have been performed in Australia in total, and in New Zealand, around 290,000 PCR tests have been performed in total.

“Data reveals that countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan, that tested their citizens in significant volumes when tests first became available, have fared better during the COVID-19 pandemic than those countries that didn’t take this approach,” said Dr Bott.

Concurrently, a proficiency testing program (PTP), developed by the RCPA’s Quality Assurance Programs (RCPAQAP), allowed laboratories to quality assure their testing to ensure accurate results.

“Through high levels of quality pathology testing, we have been able to locate the virus and protect the community, particularly the most vulnerable. These steps, and the efficiency of the pathology profession, have resulted in fewer cases and also fewer deaths than countries that didn’t, or were not able to test in such high numbers, early on.

“Pathology often takes place behind the scenes, and never before has pathology testing made such a visible contribution to the wellbeing of the community as it has now during COVID-19. Australian and New Zealand pathology has a proud history of embracing the latest technology and innovations and offering its citizens arguably the best and most accessible pathology testing in the world. These attributes have been exemplified in the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Bott.



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The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia
Durham Hall - 207 Albion St Surry Hills NSW 2010 AUSTRALIA
Phone: +61 2 8356 5858