South Australia is continuing to roll out targeted initiatives to prepare for future outbreaks of COVID-19, with a two-week testing pilot commencing at several metropolitan pharmacies this week.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade, said the trial in up to five pharmacies will capitalise on the trust and goodwill pharmacists have within their communities to improve access to COVID-19 testing.

“People often present to a pharmacy with mild cold or flu-like symptoms to seek advice from their pharmacist or to obtain treatment for symptom relief, and these are the very people we want to get a COVID-19 test,” the minister said.

“We want to build on our network of more than over 60 COVID-19 testing locations in South Australia to make it as easy as possible to get a test.

“As part of our efforts to encourage everyone with symptoms to get tested, over the next two weeks we are trialling a pharmacy-based service where eligible customers will be asked if they want to get tested while they are in the pharmacy.

“Pharmacists already provide a number of health checks and immunisations including flu shots, blood-pressure and diabetes monitoring, and this trial will see if we can partner with pharmacists to enhance our surveillance of COVID-19 in the community.”

South Australia’s Chief Pharmacist, Naomi Burgess, said ongoing training and support is being provided to the pharmacies taking part in the trial.

“We worked closely with SA Pathology to develop a training program to upskill pharmacists in swab collection and infection control so they can provide COVID-19 testing for symptomatic customers over the age of 18,” Ms Burgess said.

“Making sure the pharmacists are safe and feel safe performing these tests is a high priority list and a number of infection control measures will be put in place, including ensuring pharmacies have enough Personal Protective Equipment, swabs and pathology specimen bags.

“Increasing the availability of tests and making them as easy to access as possible will increase our State’s ability to respond to potential outbreaks.”

Customers who agree to be tested will need to have a smartphone and register with the SA Pathology Personify website to receive notification about their result.

To ensure the pilot only captures incidental customers, the service will not be promoted and pharmacists will identify eligible candidates on a case-by-case basis. The pilot will run for two weeks and outcomes evaluated before any future decisions are made.