COVID-19 testing has become part of the new normal. Yet getting tested for the novel coronavirus is not as easy for students as one might imagine. With cases ebbing and flowing in NSW, and a recent close call for the ACT when a COVID-positive woman from Townsville travelled through Canberra and the first COVID case for the territory in 104 days announced on Thursday, COVID-19 testing remains as relevant as ever. 

Testing Locations

On-campus students are required to get tested, should they develop any symptoms of COVID-19. This begs the question, where can students (or anyone) get tested for the coronavirus? There are five major testing sites in the ACT, some walk-in and others drive-through only. Opening times and more details can be found here.

ACT Government Testing Centres: 

Walk-in Testing Centres:

  • Weston Creek Respiratory Assessment Clinic
  • Garran Oval Testing Clinic
  • West Belconnen Testing Clinic 
  • Winnunga Nimmityjah Respiratory Clinic (caters to First Nations patients and existing customers)

Drive Through: 

  • Exhibition Park in Canberra
  • Jenke Circuit, Kambah

Testing Clinics:

By Appointment: 

  • YourGP@Crace
  • Lakeview Medical Practice, Tuggeranong

Private pathology centres:

  • Capital Pathology in O’Connor, Woden, Tuggeranong, Crace and Holt (requires GP referral and phone booking)
  • Laverton Pathology in Bruce (no GP or phone booking required)

All of the ACT Government testing centres provide free testing, including  individuals without a Medicare card. Testing at the private pathology centres can be bulk-billed for those with a Medicare card. 

Considering the locations listed above, most of these testing centres are not close to the ANU’s Acton campus, and thus are not easily accessible by foot or cycling for those living in central Canberra. The closest testing centre to ANU is Capital Pathology in O’Connor, however, this could be financially inaccessible to those without a Medicare card.

The closest free testing sites to ANU are the West Belconnen Testing Site and the Garran Oval Testing Site, which are both 15 minutes away by ride-share. The ANU recommends that students without cars book a taxi or ride-share service while wearing a mask and gloves. ACT Health advises students using ride-share services to attend a walk-in centre to reduce associated travel costs. ACT Health also suggests students may catch public transport while taking adequate social distancing and safety measures, such as wearing a mask, and practicing good hand sanitisation and cough etiquette.  

The ANU and ACT Health have considered establishing a testing centre on campus, but have deemed the current testing facilities as “the safest and most appropriate approach for the ACT – including the ANU community.” ACT Health justified locating testing centres out of busy areas to limit the risk of transmission to the community. This seems overly cautious, as larger cities, like Melbourne, have testing centres located in the inner-city at hospitals and other clinics. Furthermore, there are sites in inner Canberra that don’t have high foot traffic and could hold a testing centre.

 

Self-Isolation 

While awaiting test results, on-campus students are required to self-isolate. The University claims that “all residences have access to rooms that are suitable for self-isolation for students awaiting COVID-19 test results” which will either be in “their own residence or one close by.” 

When asked about how food is provided to students in self-catered halls, the ANU did not specify exactly how these students are being provided for, only stating that “if students require help accessing meals or any other practical assistance during the period of self-isolation, residence pastoral care teams provide this support by phone and online.” 

Nevertheless, the ANU reassures that “proactive welfare checks are provided… to ensure residents are aware of the services available.” Students are able to return to their usual room after receiving a negative test result. If a student were to return a positive result, they would be provided with a one-bedroom apartment with “a kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities and access to outdoor space.” 

If residential halls were to become overwhelmed with a large number of students who required self-isolation or quarantine, ACT Health would take responsibility for determining suitable locations. The ANU does not anticipate having to close down residential halls, citing their “systems and processes (they) have put in place to manage the safety and wellbeing of residents.”

Financial Hardship Payments

Students can access a range of financial supports provided by the ANU, which include “the Emergency Accommodation Bursary, Student Urgent Relief Bursary, Travel Restrictions Relief Bursary, Hardship Scholarship and ANUSA and PARSA COVID-19 Emergency Grants.” More information about these payments can be found here.

If required to self-isolate, some students could be eligible for an ACT Government payment up to $1500.  Only students who are not classed as a ‘dependent’ (as defined by the Commonwealth’s Services Australia) can access these payments. More information about eligibility for this payment can be found here. The payment amount is also dependent on how long the person is required to self-isolate. For example, those who come into close contact with a positive case or they test positive themselves will be required to self-isolate for more than just a couple of days. 

 

Electric Scooters: A New Risk? 

With a new abundance of orange and purple scooters, Woroni’s News Team has become concerned about their potential as spreaders of novel coronavirus. ACT Health, however, has reassured that “E-scooter operators are required to ensure their devices are routinely cleaned, supply hand sanitiser (where possible) and provide information to riders about safe hygiene practices.” ACT Health has acknowledged the potential for COVID-19 to be spread through the scooters, but is “confident that Canberrans take their COVID-19 safe hygiene seriously and would be responsible.” Perhaps late night Moose-goers could prove them wrong…