Melbourne, Sep 25 : A workplace Covid-19 saliva testing pilot program began in Australia's worst-hit state of Victoria on Friday in an effort to to help nderstand the logistics of continuous testing for the virus in high-risk areas, like offices
As the worst-hit state, the capital city of Melbourne is still under level four restrictions, reports Xinhua news agency.
On Friday, Victoria recorded 14 new cases and eight more deaths, taking the state's toll to 781 and the national figure to 869.
The first phase of the pilot, a partnership between the Victorian government and the Melbourne-based Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, is currently being rolled out across three police stations in Bendigo, Dandenong and Melbourne, which will see 1,000 police officers tested over a two week period.
According to a statement from the institute on Friday, using saliva to test for Covid-19 could be an alternative to a nasal swab.
The method was validated by the institute and had been proven to be highly accurate.
The researchers will use different methods to collect saliva, including mouth to container, swab under the tongue and mouth to straw to tube, and find out the most effective and comfortable way to mass test in a workplace setting.
Deputy Director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Mike Catton, who is also leading the pilot at the institute, said he is optimistic the program will provide a clear picture of whether this approach is a feasible solution in higher-risk settings.
"Saliva testing has been trialed in the Doherty Institute public health laboratories and in labs around the world.
While the nasal swab remains the gold standard of Covid-19 testing, this could be an excellent alternative in some settings," Catton said.
"While only in the first stage of the pilot, we have identified the preferred method of collecting the saliva, and have diagnosed two cases of Covid-19 among the participants.
This is a good indication of proof of concept and highlights the importance of higher-risk workplace testing as a surveillance method."
The next phase of the pilot program will be to test a greater number of workers in other higher-risk settings over coming weeks.