The federal government has warned that it will take “strong, clear, fast” action against any price cut of fast antigen tests as demand for the kits continues to surpass supply.
- Hunt said the government would make sure there was no price drop after discussions with suppliers
- Stocks for rapid antigen testing have struggled to keep up with demand
- The national cabinet will discuss when rapid antigen testing should be used
There are reports that the tests are sold at more than double their usual retail price, as much-sought-after stock disappears from the shelves.
Health Secretary Greg Hunt said that while the government expected a large number of tests in the coming days to meet demand, any dramatic test price increase in the meantime was unacceptable.
“We want to have a discussion with the suppliers to make sure there are no price spills,” Hunt said.
“If there was, as we did last year, we would take strong, clear and swift action.”
The faster-acting tests have been in the spotlight in recent days as the country’s daily case numbers rise rapidly and the PCR testing process continues to be plagued by queues and delays.
But equities have struggled to keep up with demand, prompting states like Victoria to express their frustration with the Commonwealth.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Commonwealth would pick up 50 percent of the cost of the rapid tests that states purchased, but he said state governments were ultimately responsible for securing and distributing the tests.
He said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg would pursue the issue with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
“Anyone who does that, they should report it to the ACCC, and I would urge them to do that,” he said Wednesday.
“And it’s something I know the treasurer would go on with the chairman of the ACCC if anyone sought to do something like that.”
In a speech in Adelaide on Thursday, Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government should do more to make them available.
“[Mr Morrison] always playing catch-up, always waiting until a problem becomes a crisis before there is any movement at all, and always looking for someone else to blame, “he said.
“What we need today is some national leadership, something that has been sorely lacking from this Prime Minister.”
Greg Hunt rejects criticism of the proposed new definition of close contact
Discussion about when to use rapid antigen testing will also appear at today’s emergency national cabinet meeting as nation leaders seek to recalibrate their responses to the highly transferable Omicron variant.
According to the definition that will be presented to the National Cabinet, a close contact would be a person who has spent four hours or more with a confirmed case in a household-like environment and they would only be required to quarantine for seven days.
The Australian Medical Association has criticized the proposal, claiming it could hasten the outbreak.
But Mr Hunt rejected the comments, saying the government relied on advice from its expert panels – as it had done throughout the pandemic.
“I respect that there are many views, but theirs is the authoritative point of view,” he said.
“That’s what we keep doing.”
NEW is tomorrow, but do not be too crazy
The federal government is also calling for caution on New Year’s Eve tomorrow in the midst of record-breaking daily cases.
New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland together registered nearly 20,000 daily cases on Thursday.
Hunt asked those attending the festivities to be vigilant while on the move, saying that although the Omicron variant did not appear to be as serious as Delta, it was still dangerous.
“The message is clear,” he said.
Avoid mosh pit, do not pack in large, dense numbers – it is common sense.
“It’s more transmissible, it’s clearly less serious, but it can still be dangerous for individuals.”
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