When the Victorian Government set a Covid-19 target of 100,000 tests in just two weeks, it turned to shopping centres at the heart of communities for help.
On 27 April, the Andrews Government announced it had carried out 104,000 coronavirus tests but was aiming to test a further 100,000 over the following fortnight.
Drive-thru coronavirus testing sites have since been established at shopping centres around the state, and 55,000 tests were carried out at pop-up clinics in the first week.
Testing units are located in cordoned-off areas in covered carparks, away from customers, retailers and visitors to centres, and are marked with clear signage. People are tested in their vehicles, with medical teams of GPs and nurses onsite seven days a week.
Premier Daniel Andrews has said increased testing provides a clearer picture of how the virus is spreading in the community and will inform the Victorian Government’s decision-making around restrictions.
“With every test we’re getting vital information, and that puts us in a better position to consider slowly easing some of the restrictions that we have in place,” he says.
The GPT Group’s regional general manager Rachel Duggan oversees three centres, including key testing site Highpoint in Maribyrnong.
“There’s a heartbeat that runs under each shopping centre. It’s a key part of infrastructure in every community and a convenient and logical location to enable people to easily access testing,” Duggan says.
While getting sites up and running with just 12 hours’ notice was a “big effort” across the industry, she says the system is “running really smoothly”.
“It hasn’t impacted on our centre operations and is really easy for customers to get in and out. We are proud to play our role in helping the state deal with coronavirus.”
Hundreds of Victorians have also been tested for Covid-19 at Westfield Doncaster, Westfield Fountain Gate, Westfield Knox and Westfield Southland.
Lillian Fadel, group general manager for centre experience at Scentre Group, says “We welcome the Victorian Government’s decision to set up mobile testing sites at shopping centres”.
“As essential community infrastructure, our Westfield centres play an integral role in the lives of our local customers and communities, and we are pleased to be able to support the government and our local communities in enabling more people to readily access testing in their local area.”
Vicinity Centres has five pop-up testing sites at Chadstone, Northland, Bayside, Victoria Gardens and The Glen, and Peter Huddle, the company’s chief operating officer says “we recognise we all have a responsibility to slow the spread of coronavirus”.
Huddle says the pop-up sites at Vicinity’s assets have been very popular, with hundreds of people tested daily.
“We will continue to monitor and act upon the advice of health authorities to ensure our centres continue to be safe for our customers, retailers and the broader community,” he says, adding that shopping centres play an important role in maintaining physical distancing.
“We welcome the state government’s strong stance on widespread testing to ensure the safety of Victorians as we continue to manage the impacts of the ongoing pandemic and move towards recovery,” Huddle concludes.