NSW plans to scale up testing for COVID-19 with even people with mild respiratory symptoms now eligible to get tested for the disease.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the new testing plan to The Daily Telegraph on Thursday.
From today, anyone in NSW who has symptoms should come forward and get tested,” Ms Berejiklian told the paper.
Up to 8000 people will now be tested for COVID-19 each day under the new rules in a bid to better track community outbreaks.
It comes as the state’s COVID-19 death toll reached 34 with the death of a fourth resident at a western Sydney nursing home where more than 40 people have been infected with coronavirus.
The 79-year-old woman died at Anglicare’s Newmarch House early on Thursday morning.
This follows the death of a 92-year-old woman on Tuesday, and earlier deaths of a 93-year-old man and 94-year-old man.
Five new cases of COVID-19 were reported in NSW for the second consecutive day taking the state’s toll to 2976 with 21 people in intensive care.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant this week said specialist doctors and nurses were sent to the 95-resident Newmarch House.
Some 44 people there – 29 residents and 15 staff – have been infected with COVID-19.
Anglicare on Thursday evening held an online resident and family meeting with representatives from NSW Health, the federal Department of Health, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner and the Older Persons Advocacy Network.
Following the meeting the organisation’s chief executive Grant Millard flagged that it could be a long road ahead for Newmarch House.
“Given the experience from other aged care sites that have had an outbreak of COVID-19, it’s very likely we will be dealing with this for around 50 days,” Mr Millard said.
With 55 Newmarch House staff in isolation, the federal government has activated a “surge workforce” including the deployment of an emergency response team at the facility.
National Deputy Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said unlimited workforce support had been offered to the facility. Strict isolation protocols are in place for its residents.
A staff member who worked for six consecutive days with mild symptoms, primarily a sore throat, introduced the virus to the facility earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the Ruby Princess cruise ship began to make its way out of Australia on Thursday afternoon after leaving Port Kembla where it had been moored for more than a fortnight following a COVID-19 outbreak.
The ship, so far linked to 21 coronavirus deaths and up to 600 infections across Australia, was led out of the Wollongong port about 4.30pm, bearing a banner with the words: “Thank you Illawarra.”
The ship now has about 500 crew members on board.