States fight for supplies of rapid antigen testing as federal government sits down

“There is no point in switching from one type of test to another type of test if you are not sure that this test will be available,” Ms. D’Ath said Tuesday morning.

The NSW order will not arrive in one batch, but will be spaced out due to supply limitations.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the tests would be widely available, but their use would be subject to certain conditions.

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“These tests will be used for people going to high-risk environments – to go to the hospital, to visit elderly relatives, to go to clubs,” he said on Tuesday.

Mr Perrottet’s office did not respond to questions about where the government had purchased the tests.

The NSW premier said more details will be announced in the coming days.

“I want to get as many rapid home antigen tests from people across our state… and we will go through the best distribution model to make sure that the people who need these tests have access to them,” he said. .

Countries like the UK and Singapore have made rapid antigenic tests available to residents free of charge. They have been used in conjunction with PCR testing for much of 2021.

World Health Organization epidemiologist and adviser Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said Australia was well behind in expanding the use of rapid tests.

“PCR tests should be perfectly used for diagnosing someone who is showing symptoms… everyone should be using a rapid antigen test,” she said.

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Deakin University Chair of Epidemiology Professor Catherine Bennett said PCR testing should be reserved for people at high risk of severe COVID-19 so that they can receive potentially life-saving medical treatment as soon as possible , keeping them out of hospital or intensive care.

“We need to preserve PCR testing where it matters,” she said.

In advice provided to the national cabinet ahead of its meeting last week, the country’s public health officials recommended increasing the use of rapid antigenic tests, including for essential workers and in high-risk settings. transmission.

A federal government source speaking anonymously said states had known for weeks the supply was tight and had known since October that the tests would be available for home use by November.

The stocks of rapid antigenic tests are running out in many places.

The stocks of rapid antigenic tests are running out in many places.Credit:Flavio Brancaleone

“There is a timeframe to manufacture and deliver the tests, and unfortunately no one seems to have thought about that in Victoria,” the source said.

The federal health ministry said the federal government provides rapid antigen testing to some elderly care facilities and also reimburses for tests used in the care of people with disabilities, but said people should buy theirs because ” Medicare does not fund the clinic’s products ”.

“Medicare does not fund dressings or medication, but it does fund the service provided by a doctor to change a bandage or prescribe medication. This also applies to devices for rapid antigen detection or screening tests, ”a spokeswoman for the department said, adding that people can buy RAT kits from retailers.

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Grattan Institute health economist Stephen Duckett said the Commonwealth should be responsible for purchasing rapid tests because it has greater purchasing power and could place higher volume orders.

He said Australian governments had been slow to recognize the importance of home testing and argued that it should be made free.

Prof Bennett said states should provide free rapid antigen tests because they are the ones who decide on public health measures, but Prof McLaws said the federal government should foot the bill.

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