ACOSS is deeply concerned about the availability of free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for people with concession cards after pharmacists across Australia have indicated that widespread supply shortages may mean they will struggle to meet the demand.
From today, these test kits should be made available for free to people on low incomes. People on low incomes including pensioners, people on JobSeeker and veterans are eligible for up to 10 free tests in a three-month period from today (with a maximum of five per month).
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:
“We urge the Commonwealth to ensure that there are enough free RATs for people with concession cards to be able to rely on easy access to these tests from today onwards.
“RATS are an essential way for people to protect themselves, loved ones and the wider community from the rapid spread of COVID. They are also a vital way to help people know if it is safe to go to work and protect their incomes. RATS should be widely available to the community for free.
“We urge people to keep trying to access RATS as they need them. However, the Federal Government needs to acknowledge that supply issues remain a serious problem.
“We strongly reject suggestions today by the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, that the current RAT supply issues are due to people hoarding them. People want an adequate supply of RATS because they want to do the right thing. For many people, their ability to go to work and protect their incomes depends on being able to get tested. No one on JobSeeker or a pension can afford to hoard tests, which are costing at least $10 each.
“Instead of trying to shift blame, our political leaders must immediately fix the RAT supply issue and provide tests for free. They must also plan for what is needed next – for example, what is the Federal Government doing to ensure the public has sufficient supply of appropriate masks to keep people safe?
“The lack of planning and action is why ACOSS has called for the creation of a civil society COVID Rapid Response Group. This group should include ACOSS, unions, business peaks and public health experts to work closely with government to address the impacts of the rampant spread of the Omicron and Delta COVID variants and help ensure we continue to plan properly for this outbreak and any subsequent outbreaks we may encounter.