SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday (January 17) that the lack of at-home antigen tests was “not unique” to the country as officials deal with a runaway Omicron outbreak that has prompted increased hospitalization rates and strained testing systems. has done.
Australia is facing a shortage of at-home rapid antigen testing kits after asymptomatic close contacts were forced to bypass government-funded testing centres, where high doses delay results for several days, and their own take tests.
“Rapid antigen tests are in short supply around the world. This is not something that is unique to Australia,” Morrison told radio station 2GB on Monday. “It’s part of dealing with Omicron. Omicron has disrupted everything.”
The country’s competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), on Monday flagged “significant concerns” about reports of hike in prices of test kits amid reports of stockpiling and the increased prices as “clearly outrageous”. ” said.
ACCC President Rod Sims said there were reports of kits costing A$500 (US$361) at online retailers, and $70 per test at stores when they were available in pharmacies the week before for about $10.
Under pressure from dealing with an Omicron outbreak in an election year and not having enough supplies of antigen tests, Morrison earlier this month agreed to provide 10 free kits for low-income people.
Doctors and trade unions are calling for free testing for all, but Morrison has resisted those calls, saying the government would not cover the cost, citing an increased role for “personal responsibility”.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said dozens of unions would meet on Monday to respond to “the federal government’s failure to keep us safe”. A survey conducted by the Australian Institute on Monday showed that nearly three-quarters of Australians believe they should get free antigen testing.