The Australian Medical Association warned senior officials at the Federal Department of Health of the need to develop a national strategy for purchasing rapid antigenic tests (RATs) in September last year.
But WADA vice-president Chris Moy said he was told at the meeting that the government did not want to intervene in the private market.
“I asked them because I knew what was going on in other countries, and we had to make the transition, so what was the plan? Moy told Guardian Australia.
“We must have had a lot [RATs], and we needed a very clear transition strategy, it was so obvious.
“They were taken aback by Omicron and the number of cases, but the bottom line is if you are relying on the private market for a health emergency you need to make sure they are prepared.”
The revelation comes as Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims warned retailers on Tuesday that the watchdog would not hesitate to “name and shame” companies engaging in ” unreasonable conduct “on the price of testing.
“The ACCC is obviously very aware of the concern over the pricing of rapid antigenic tests. [and] we are writing to the suppliers and retailers of these rapid antigen tests to find out what their stock levels are, their forecast stock levels and most importantly what their costs are, what their price is and how it has evolved. over time, ”he said.
“I’d love to see, if any retailers are offering prices as high as $ 45 for a test when they’re normally supposed to be a third of that, they would immediately take note of what we’re saying today and take those prices. down.”
Sims told reporters that the ACCC had started investigating reports of price increases following a request by Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and had previously seen reports of “excessive prices,” especially on individual sales sites such as Gumtree and Kogan.
Sims said the watchdog has received over 100 reports of “unreasonable” or potential deceptive behavior regarding products and urged people to contact the ACCC if they come across any examples of testing prices. unreasonably inflated.
He said the ACCC would also look into claims that current price levels for rapid antigenic tests were due to difficulties in securing supply of the tests.
The Morrison government is under increasing pressure to provide free rapid antigen testing to the entire community as the number of cases in Australia hits record highs while testing clinics remain overwhelmed. But Sims stopped criticizing the federal government, saying that while “demand clearly exceeds supply,” it’s unclear exactly what is causing the shortages.
“The price of these isn’t something I’m going to comment on, obviously you can see both sides of that argument,” Sims said in response to questions about whether testing should be provided for free.
New South Wales and Victoria recorded a record number of daily cases on Tuesday. NSW recorded 23,131 new cases, while Victoria recorded 14,020.
Queensland had a record 5,699 cases, while South Australia had 3,246 new cases, ACT 926, Tasmania 702 and the Northern Territory 75.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the government will not make rapid tests free for everyone, but is in the process of finalizing concessional access with state and territory leaders. The national cabinet is expected to approve the details at a meeting on Wednesday.
Whatever the cost, supplies remain limited in the private market across the country, with growing frustration that tests cannot be found on drugstore and supermarket shelves.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said Queensland will distribute 500,000 RATs to public testing clinics from tomorrow, but supplies remain limited across the country.
“It’s happening all over the country. We’re as prepared as possible, but take a look at what’s going on in the world, ”she said.
“It’s not unique to Australia. There isn’t a country, there isn’t a state that can say that we don’t have lines, that you won’t have to wait for them. testing now.
She said RATs should be “heavily subsidized” or made free to ensure equity of access.
“We want to make sure they’re affordable, we want to make sure people have easy access to them and we don’t want to become a society where only those who can afford it get it.”
She said she also appealed to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to expedite any pending approvals for test kits, including those made in Australia.
Queensland Director of Health John Gerrard said the Omicron virus had changed the pandemic landscape, with each infected person now infecting between seven and 10 people.
“The Omicron strain really changed everything – I know it sounds like a cliché, but it completely changed the whole planning,” Gerrard said.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who says testing should be readily available, said Morrison was ultimately responsible for the lack of supply.
“It is time for the Prime Minister himself to take responsibility for something, to do his job. And its job is to secure the supply, just as it was its job to secure the vaccine supply, ”Albanese said.
But the Leader of the Opposition did not say the tests should be made free.
“We think if someone needs a quick antigen test and can’t afford it, they should do one. Everyone should have access to a rapid antigen test. It shouldn’t depend on your income.
National Senator Matt Canavan said the TGA was to blame for the delay, and said making the tests free would exacerbate demand.
“The heist was at the feet of the TGA,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.
“We should have been better prepared for this. “