Queensland Government Defends Virus Testing by Chemists

Queensland Government Defends Virus Testing by Chemists
A Pharmacy in Forest Lake on the southside of Brisbane is seen in Brisbane, Australia, on May 14, 2015 . (Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Queensland's health minister has defended a controversial scheme allowing chemists to conduct COVID-19 testing as the state recorded two new cases linked to a current cluster.

State bodies of the Australian Medical Association and Professional Pharmacists of Australia have flagged concerns over the pilot program which they say will increase the risk of infection.

They fear the program will encourage people to visit pharmacies for testing, putting chemists and their patients at risk, rather than remaining in isolation.

But Health Minister Steven Miles says the trial would not be promoting chemists as alternative testing sites but to catch cases which may otherwise slip through the cracks.

"People are still going to pharmacies to get Strepsils, to get cold and flu drugs, to get medications for the kind of symptoms that we want to test for COVID-19," Miles said.

"It is small scale, very safe and designed to opportunistically test people with the symptoms ... who are there already."

Almost one million Queenslanders have been tested for coronavirus since the pandemic began, with more than 960,000 people being swabbed so far.

Another health worker linked to a Queensland hospital was among two new cases recorded in the Sunshine State overnight.

A woman in her 30s has become the fifth case linked with infected patients at Ipswich Hospital while another woman, aged in her 20s, is linked to a household of a known cases.

More than 200 staff at the southeast health facility remain in isolation as virus clusters linked to two quarantine-dodging teens grew to 85 people.

Queensland Health director-general John Wakefield said emergency department staff at the Ipswich Hospital were now back at work.

However, non-urgent elective surgeries had been impacted, he said.

Private hospitals will be offering elective surgery for those patients whose procedures have been cancelled.

"For every patient whose procedure has been delayed we'll work with them to decide what they want to do," Wakefield said.

By Sophie Moore