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Queensland swelters through severe heatwave with five-hour lines for COVID-19 tests

Tuesday January 4, 2022 - 21:48 AEDT
ABC image
Kai Wilson was facing a long wait at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital for a PCR test. - ABC

Thousands of Queenslanders are expected to line up for COVID testing today, but with the mercury set to break records, how do you beat the heat while in the queue?

Kai Wilson waited hours to get his test in the heat of the day at the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital yesterday.

He said he had no other option but to wait to get the test after being unable to get his hands on a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT).

"The line was wrapped all the way around the building," he said.

"You see people's shocked faces as they come around the corner for the first time when they see how long the line is.

"There isn't much cover ? it is not a good day to be out in the sun waiting six hours just to get tested."

Mr Wilson said he wished he had been more prepared for the wait but had some tips for anyone who planned to be tested in the coming days.

"If you come, bring a chair and umbrella and definitely some water," he said.

Prepare to get sweaty

Australian GP Alliance director Kevin Arlett said while the situation could spell disaster, those in the queue could take steps to keep cool.

"People who are unwell, who then stand in the sun and get dehydrated run a danger of getting very, very unwell very quickly," he said.

Mr Arlett has urged those who have to wait without shelter to protect themselves from the sun.

"A hat and umbrella to shade themselves from the sun and obviously, lots and lots of water to rehydrate because you'll be sweating quite profusely," he said.

Despite the heat, Mr Arlett said it was important to get tested for COVID if you were experiencing symptoms.

Dr Arlett advises Queenslanders to use a drive-through site if possible.

"At least in your car you can have the engine running with the air conditioning," he said.

Too hot to handle

In Mackay, rising temperatures on Tuesday forced drive-through testing facilities at the Showgrounds to close two hours early.

The site is the sole testing facility for the regional city of 125,000 residents.

A statement from the Mackay Hospital and Health Service, posted on Facebook, said those with booked appointments would be contacted to arrange a new time.

"Due to the heatwave we are unable to safely run the drive-through testing clinic and are closing two hours early," the post read.

"We apologise to people with booked appointments today."

Further north, Townsville is expected to reach 37 degrees Celsius on Wednesday.

Despite the scorching temperatures predicted, Townsville Hospital and Health Service will continue to operate its testing facility.

Hospital and Health Service chief executive Kieran Keyes said running to normal operation was the preferred option for staff.

"While we are rotating [staff] on breaks quite regularly, it's still very challenging conditions."

But those needing a test in the city will need to pack their patience.

All testing facilities across Townsville were at capacity before 4pm yesterday.

The average wait time at the city's main drive-through clinic was five hours.

"We are seeing significant waits at the moment. We are doing our level best to redirect our staff from other activities here in the health service to make sure we can prioritise capability for our testing," Mr Keyes said.

"The past few days we've been testing between 1,200 and 1,400 [people] per day and I think as more people become positive in the local community we understand that's likely to continue for the immediate future."

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© ABC 2022

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