Pathology lab workers have performed millions of COVID-19 tests

Pathology laboratories around Australia have done an incredible job of setting up, scaling up and keeping up with sustained demand for COVID-19 tests since the virus first reached the nation’s shores in early 2020.

Eighteen months ago this might have been thought impossible but pathology services went from facing a totally new virus with no established test to running tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests a day, within a matter of months.

At the time of writing, Australian pathology teams have performed over 23,000,000 COVID-19 tests, diagnosing more than 31,000 cases of COVID-19.

Over 170,000 tests were recorded in just one day during July 2021.

Pathology labs are doing this on top of all those other everyday tests, which are also vital in diagnosing illness and maintaining health for the 12 million Australians who have a pathology test each year.

This effort is herculean and as the virus runs rampant still in many countries, pathology teams will need to keep stepping up every day to protect our community.

Dr Michael Dray is President of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, who express their pride and gratitude towards those working in the profession;

“The entire healthcare system has been able to wisely use the knowledge gained from COVID-19 testing to locate the virus and help protect the community.  We extend our gratitude to our hard-working pathologists, scientists, couriers, laboratory staff and everybody supporting this crucial work. We are proud that Australia and New Zealand boast some of the best laboratory testing systems in the world and it continues to help us combat this virus.

However, the COVID-19 fight is far from over. We encourage everyone in the community to play their part. Please get vaccinated as soon as you are able and present for testing when required, even if your symptoms are mild.”

Chair of Pathology Technology Australia, David Basseal, also noted the contribution of those who develop the technology that enables this volume and speed of testing; “The frontline healthcare workers and pathology practices have been doing an outstanding job keeping us safe. This tremendous work has been supported by the pathology technology suppliers, both local and global, who responded to the challenge by marshalling their innovation and know-how to rapidly develop, manufacture and supply the technologies, in the large volumes required, that have enabled the national COVID response.”

Sadly, in Australia over 900 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19, but we will never know how many more lives could have been claimed in the first year of the pandemic had it not been for the swift public health response – which could only be enabled by an outstanding pathology workforce.

The President of the Australian Institute of Medical and Clinical Scientists (AIMS), Prof Denise Jackson commented;

“AIMS acknowledges the hard work and dedication of all those involved in the national COVID-19 response, especially the pathology campaign. Every one of the millions of COVID-19 tests carried out in Australia since the start of the pandemic has been performed by a medical scientist or technician. While they work behind the scenes, they play a vital role in pathology services. Their efforts in the pandemic, and in maintaining other pathology services, have been outstanding. The Australian community owe a special thanks to these unsung heroes of the pandemic.”