The Government of Victoria in Australia has announced plans to set up 20 new GP respiratory clinics to provide access to people for Covid-19 testing.

With this new $17.7m (A$23.8m) initiative, Victorians can also access respiratory assessments conveniently close to their homes without visiting hospital.

The new clinics will be set up at various locations including LGAs of Hume, Melbourne, Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong, Melton, Casey, Greater Dandenong, Monash, Wyndham, Brimbank, Moreland, Darebin, Kingston, Cardinia, Whittlesea, Banyule and Boroondara.

They will be set up in a span of three to six weeks.

Once established, the respiratory clinics would ease pressure on the hospitals, by reducing emergency department presentations and avoidable visits.

It is estimated that the clinics will have the capacity to attend more than 350 patients with respiratory symptoms per week.

Treatment will be offered to patients of all ages and to those who do not have Medicare card.

All the clinics will have trained and qualified clinicians, including general practitioners and nurses.

They will be identified through an Expression of Interest (EOI) process, which will be led by Primary Health Networks.

Clinics that have been finalised will receive establishment and operating grants to cover staffing and facility costs.

Currently, there are 28 Commonwealth GP respiratory clinics located across the state, of which 18 are located in the regional Victoria area.

Victoria Minister for Health Martin Foley said: “Establishing GP respiratory clinics in areas of high demand is about ensuring Victorians have easy access to free, high-quality care close to home – reducing visits to busy emergency departments.

“Increasing Covid-19 cases in Victoria has highlighted the critical role of primary care – ensuring Victorians can quickly access the respiratory support they need, 16 hours day, seven days a week.”