The region's COVID-19 screening centres have been put to the test these Christmas holidays.
The south-west has not been immune to high-pressure demand on COVID-19 testing amid state-wide issues of staff shortages, rising infections and strict interstate travel requirements.
"South West Healthcare expect to see a surge in testing and wait times over the summer," acting chief executive Jamie Brennan said in a statement.
"Please try and book appointments at private facilities for travel testing before booking at a SWH facility.
"Priority will be given to household contacts and symptomatic patients."
A rush for booster bookings amid growing COVID-19 case numbers prompted a rethink of Warrnambool's vaccination centre shutdown over Christmas and 1000 additional appointments opened up.
Originally the centre was to be shut down until January 17 but SWH has revised that date to January 7 in Warrnambool and January 13 in Camperdown.
Testing will close January 1 and January 3.
Almost 3000 south-west residents received their COVID-19 booster shot ahead of Christmas.
The team at South West Healthcare and the Barwon South West Public Health Unit are currently planning and preparing for the surge in demand during January when more people are eligible for their booster dose and children aged 5-11 become eligible.
Eligible people will receive the Pfizer vaccine as their booster dose regardless of which COVID-19 vaccine they received for their initial doses.
Adding to the pressure is the closure of Warrnambool's Great South Coast Respiratory Clinic on Fairy Street from Thursday.
Due to unprecedented demand for testing in Hamilton, Western District Health Service moved its COVID-19 testing services to the Hamilton Showgrounds.
Portland's COVID-19 testing clinic reached beyond capacity yesterday and extended hours to cover as much demand as possible. The clinic will be closed today, with the community advised to be tested in Warrnambool or Hamilton.
Travelers to South Australia are advised to use a rapid antigen test kit from the supermarket or chemist.
There were new cases of COVID-19 identified in the region overnight, bringing active cases to:
- Eight active cases in Warrnambool (one new case overnight)
- 11 active cases in Moyne Shire (one new case overnight)
- Four active cases in Corangamite Shire
- One active case in Glenelg Shire
- Eight active cases in Southern Grampians Shire (two new cases overnight)
- 23 active cases in Colac-Otway Shire (seven new cases overnight)
'Demand is massive': Rapid antigen test supply plummets
Pharmacies in the region are feeling the sting as demand for rapid antigen tests soars.
Warrnambool's Direct Chemist Outlet is struggling to keep up with demand, worker Kirrily Wright said on Tuesday.
"We have no tests at all, we can't keep up," Ms Wright said.
"We've been getting 100 tests in every two days and they've been selling so fast they're gone within the two days by the time we get the next one, it's been nuts.
"We've been trying to increase supply but it's almost impossible, especially over the Christmas period with all the tourists wanting them done as they travel."
Warrnambool's Artz & Kay pharmacy saw a "massive increase" in interest last week as people sought negative results before gathering at Christmas.
"They're wanting to be confident everyone is COVID-negative which the tests can provide a screen for but they're not as accurate as PCR tests," co-owner Mary-Lou Kay said.
"It's difficult to maintain supply, a lot are out of stock of the TGA-approved rapid antigen tests and others are in limited supply.
"We're maintaining stock levels of whatever brand we can get."
The demand for COVID-19 booster shots has been high but supply is not an issue, Ms Kay said.
However many places are closing down for the Christmas and New Years period.
"There's lots of demand which is encouraging but most places won't be up and running until after Christmas."
It comes as Victoria has seen a sharp uptick in COVID-19 infections with 2738 cases and four deaths reported on Tuesday.
The daily COVID-19 case number is a new record for Victoria - the previous record stood at 2297 cases, reported by the Department of Health in mid-October.
The number of active cases has also risen again to 17,821 after 66,683 people were tested.
The number of active cases had fallen by nearly a thousand on Monday, to 16,467.
Fewer people are now in intensive care - down from 80 to 69.
Hospitalisations are also down from 368 to 361, bringing the seven-day average of 373.
On Tuesday the Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton urged interstate travelers to get tested in the afternoon.
"We kindly ask people who are getting a PCR test for travel purposes to get tested after 12pm daily. This will help reduce testing demand for symptomatic people and contacts during the busier morning period," Professor Sutton said in a statement.
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