Rio Tinto introduces stricter COVID screening

Medical staff performing COVID-19 screening at Perth Airport. Image: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto has upped the ante of its COVID-19 testing at Perth Airport by introducing antigen screening on all company fly-in, fly-out workers travelling to and from mine sites.

The antigen screening nasal swab test detects the COVID-19 virus early in its life cycle and provides results in just 15 minutes.

It is one of three methods Rio Tinto has implemented at the Perth Airport, along with temperature checks and questionnaires.

If the antigen screen comes back positive, Rio Tinto and Perth Airport health officials would forward the result for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory verification.

The introduction of the antigen screening comes after Western Australia’s five-day snap lockdown, which halted FIFO shifts for five days.

“Our COVID-19 response team, together with medical and health experts, are working to safely remobilise our essential workers to Rio Tinto sites in accordance with Western Australian government directions,” a Rio Tinto spokesperson said.

“To help ensure the health and safety of our workforce and the communities where we operate, we have reinstated COVID-19 screening protocols that will apply to all essential workers.

“All essential workers must undertake and pass three levels of screening, including a temperature check, questionnaire and antigen screening ahead of travelling to our operations.”

Rio Tinto’s decision to implement more strict COVID-19 screening at Perth Airport comes as the Australian Government announced it had secured an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

This is in addition to the already secured 10 million vaccines, with Australia now set to receive 20 million Pfizer doses during 2021.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government was working with the states, territories, regulators, health and medical sectors to finalise detailed rollout plans for COVID-19 vaccine deployment.

“The vaccine rollout is the next critical step in protecting Australians,” Hunt said.

“It is vital that we offer vaccines to all people living in Australia to achieve the maximum level of coverage.”