Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday the shortage of home antigen tests was “not unique” to the country as authorities deal with a rampant outbreak of Omicron that has driven up hospitalization rates and deaths. strain testing systems.
Australia is facing a shortage of rapid home antigen test kits after asymptomatic close contacts were told to bypass government-funded testing centers where high volumes delayed results by days, and pass their own tests.
“Rapid antigen testing is rare around the world. It’s not something unique to Australia,” Morrison told 2GB radio station on Monday. “It’s part of Omicron’s treatment. Omicron disrupted everything.”
The country’s competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), on Monday raised “significant concerns” about reports of price gouging https://www.Reuters.com /world/asia-pacific/australia-regulator-flags-significant-concerns-price-hike-covid-19-antigen-tests-2022-01-16 test kits amid storage reports and called inflated prices of “clearly outrageous”.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said kits even cost up to 500 Australian dollars ($361) at online retailers and 70 Australian dollars per test in stores despite being available for around 10 Australian dollars in pharmacies a few weeks ago.
Morrison, under pressure in an election year for his handling of the Omicron outbreak and failing to source enough antigen testing supplies, had agreed earlier this month to provide 10 free kits to people with low income.
Doctors and unions are demanding free tests for everyone, but Morrison resisted those calls saying the government would not cover the costs, citing an increased role for “personal accountability”.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said dozens of unions will meet later on Monday to respond “to the federal government’s failure to keep us safe”. A survey by the Australian Institute on Monday showed nearly three-quarters of Australians believe they should benefit from free antigen testing.
In a bid to ease pressure on its testing centres, Victoria on Monday began rolling out 3 million antigen tests for frontline workers and the vulnerable population, while many other states awaited the delivery of millions of test kits.
After successfully containing the virus at the start of the pandemic, Australia has reported nearly 1.3 million cases in the past two weeks, overwhelming hospitals and testing clinics.
Daily infections fell Monday in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia’s most populous states, as the Omicron surge was expected to near its peak https://www .Reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australia-nears-omicron-peak-daily-infections-hover-around-records-2022-01-15 in the country. But net new hospitalizations remain high, with more people admitted than at any other time during the pandemic.
Nearly 74,000 cases were reported on Monday, the lowest tally in the country in a week. National daily figures hit a record high of 150,000 last Thursday, but have been falling ever since.
So far, Australia has reported around 1.6 million infections and 2,699 deaths since the start of the pandemic.