It appears the South Australian government’s message has hit home for Adelaide residents who have turned out in droves at the state’s COVID-19 testing clinics, triggering queues in excess of 10 hours.
There are now 20 cases linked to the latest outbreak, and more than a dozen “high risk” (close contacts or showing symptoms) residents are likely to return positive results.
But SA chief health officer Nicola Spurrier said it was too early to tell how widespread the virus was in the community.
Many residents arrived at the testing sites before sunrise to secure a spot in the queue ahead of a huge day of testing.
Some have come armed with deck chairs and umbrellas, and they’re being urged to bring water and snacks ahead of a long day in the queue in 34 C heat.
Nurse Sarah Crocker, who is swabbing patients across several Adelaide clinics, is urging residents to arrive at least an hour-and-a-half before testing sites are due to open.
She said some wait times had stretched beyond 10 hours but on average were hovering between the six and eight-hour mark.
“Come prepared. Bring cold water, sunscreen, a hat, umbrella for shade, chairs, snacks and some form of entertainment,” Ms Crocker said for people heading to walk-in clinics.
“Clinics are staying open later than usual, but my advice would be to turn up at least one-and-a-half hours before it is due to open.
“The busiest time is all day.”
Lights have just been set up at the Victoria Park testing site so nurses can continue to take swabs well after sunset.
SA Health said those testing stations will be open until midnight tonight.
The state opposition is now calling for addition COVID-19 testing resources and pop up clinics to help decrease the wait time and get as many people tested as possible.
SA Labor Leader Peter Malinauskas said extending opening hours at three drive-through clinics and opening two more mobile testing sites in the northern suburbs were ways to achieve that.
He also recommended creating a dedicated clinic exclusively for people with a letter from SA Health requiring a test and publishing a list of GPs who conduct COVID-19 tests.
“It has been outstanding to see so many South Australians do the right thing and seek to get a COVID-19 test but it has been disturbing to see people, many of them unwell, forced to wait for more than 10 hours, with many turned away,” Mr Malinauskas said.
“It’s understandable there would be long queues in the immediate hours following news of this cluster, but it’s now been three days.”
Thousands of South Australians have been forced into quarantine after being deemed close contacts of a confirmed case, with Premier Steven Marshall saying the state is only at the beginning of dealing with a “particularly nasty” Parafield cluster.
“We can and we must rise to the challenge – and that is exactly and precisely what South Australia has done,” he said.
At least 3000 people were tested on Monday, but that figure grew to more than 4500 on Tuesday.
Wait times in the Parafield area have stretched beyond 10 hours, while the drive-through clinic at Victoria Park has been inundated with residents wanting to get tested.
Contact tracers from Western Australia have been called in to help control the outbreak.
SA Health has also urged people to be patient with staff and be prepared for delays.
“Bring water and snacks with you,” the health department said in a Facebook post.
Queue jumpers have also been warned to not push in, with SA Police urging community members to do the right thing.
“Go to the back and wait just like the other members of our community,” authorities said.
Traffic disruptions around testing clinics are also widespread, and motorists are reminded to not queue across intersections.
“Please be patient, ensure that you leave enough distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you and remember to drive slowly through the testing clinics,” SA Police said.
“If you are lining up in person please exercise caution, remembering to social distance, wear a mask if possible and be mindful of the sun.”