Pharmacists in Queensland are calling for calm amid rapid shortages of antigen test kits in the regions

Australia’s top pharmacy body is urging Queenslanders not to stock up on rapid antigen testing (RAT) amid shortages in the state’s largest regional centers.

Prices are rising and supply is shrinking around the state, according to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA), after the state government announced a shift in test requirements.

Those entering Queensland are no longer required to provide a negative PCR test to enter the state, but instead can now return a negative RAT.

But many Queenslanders also buy the tests, as Omicron quickly spread across the state.

Regional pharmacists in Queensland say they are struggling against their busiest time of the year while coping with the inadequate range of tests across the regions.

‘Volatile’ situation to ease

Chief Health Officer Dr. John Gerrard said there were a “very significant number” of RATs en route to Queensland after previously admitting they were “difficult” to obtain.

PGA National President Trent Twomey said RAT supply is unusually volatile due to demand but also price.

A man wearing a pharmacist's white coat standing in a pharmacy with shelves full of medicine.
Queensland Pharmacy Guilds Trent Twomey says RAT supplies will increase early next year.(ABC Far North: Mark Rigby)

“It’s not only the actual amount of the rapid antigen test that lands on pharmacies that is unpredictable. It is also the price that they land on our pharmacies for,” he said.

On the Gold Coast, pharmacies reported selling out “within days,” but said more stock was expected to hit shelves next week.

The costs are changing across the state

Most single tests on the Gold Coast cost $ 15.

Pharmacists around the Sunshine Coast told ABC customers they had called “every five minutes” to look for RATs.

In Imbil, the tests were $ 7.95 a few weeks ago, but had recently risen to around $ 11.

In Mackay, there is also a shortage of prices ranging from a five-pack to $ 70 or a two-pack to around $ 24.

People are waiting in line for a COVID test
The test queues reached capacity on the Gold Coast between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.(ABC News: Heidi Sheehan)

Mr. Twomey said price differences arise because pharmacists pay different wholesale costs.

“Some are made in Australia, but the majority of them are imported from abroad from three places – the United States, China and Germany,” said Mr. Twomey.

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How accurate are fast antigen tests?

Repetition of toilet paper?

Mr. Twomey urged residents that “common sense and cool heads” should prevail when it comes to inventory testing.

“We have a bit of a feeling that it looks like toilet paper,” he said.

Twomey said the guild worked with the Commonwealth government on a “hybrid system” where state-funded RATs would be available to health care and concession card holders.

“Then there will be the free market for the rest of us,” he said.

“Now that we’ve got the national context, the market will respond.

“It will just take us a few weeks to adjust to what the new COVID standard is.”

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