TOP News

Australia: Victorians fed up with lack of rapid antigen tests as they're turned away from testing queues

Queensland ditches 72-hour COVID-19 PCR testing requirement for interstate travellers from January 1

  Queensland ditches 72-hour COVID-19 PCR testing requirement for interstate travellers from January 1 Queensland will scrap its requirement for interstate travellers from COVID-19 hotspots to produce a negative PCR test before arriving the state, from January 1.Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the change today, after other states complained that Queensland's existing insistence on travellers taking a PCR test within 72 hours before crossing the border was putting unfair stress on already overloaded testing systems.

Regional Victorians are becoming frustrated at the COVID-19 testing regime as they are turned away from screening stations and unable to come by at-home testing kits.

Testing stations are again closing their queues early this week as demand continues to grow amid the Omicron outbreak, of which 76 per cent of samples in Victoria since Christmas are the latest COVID-19 variant.

Bendigo Health reported as much as a four-hour wait on Sunday and Monday to get tested at its McLaren Street drive-through and walk-in testing stations.

The wait at Ballarat Health Service's Creswick Road clinic also stretched beyond three hours by 1pm, before it was closed and 650 people were tested, up from about 557 on Sunday and 403 on New Year's Day. 

What happens if I test positive to a rapid antigen test on day six?

  What happens if I test positive to a rapid antigen test on day six? The rules have changed for close contacts of COVID-19 cases, as the Omicron variant spreads like a bushfire across Australia. Close contacts of confirmed cases are required to self-isolate for seven days starting from the testing date of the positive PCR test.READ MORE: Big spike in Victoria COVID-19 cases © Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images A close contact who is asymptomatic must have a rapid antigen test. If they start to develop symptoms, they are required to get a PCR test themselves. If not, they are required to take a rapid antigen test on day six.

People are being urged not to line up for PCR swabs unless they meet testing criteria as regional health services struggle to cope with demand.

But residents say they are unable to find rapid antigen tests (RATs) at pharmacies, service stations, or supermarkets to test themselves.

Shepparton pharmacist John Anderson said tests were selling out just hours after hitting shelves.

"From 9am each day the phone is running hot with people asking if we have any rapid antigen tests. By midday we're sold out," he said.

Mr Anderson said deliveries of rapid antigen tests were "tightly controlled".

His pharmacy is allocated just 36 test kits per delivery and the shipments are sporadic at best.

"As soon as orders are taken and the stock is received, pharmacies put another order in as quickly as they can, so they're working through the backorders," he said.

Three in four Vic Xmas COVID cases Omicron

  Three in four Vic Xmas COVID cases Omicron Three out of four Victorians who tested positive for COVID-19 over Christmas have the Omicron variant, the chief health officer says.Victoria reported 7172 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday and another three virus-related deaths.

"But the demand is definitely outstripping supply."

Pharmacy staff shortages

Peter Fell, the operations manager of UFS Pharmacies in Ballarat, said its biggest issue was staffing.

"Probably 10 per cent of our pharmacist workforce is unable to work at the moment," Mr Fell said.

"It's just been really challenging … we've got a lot of symptomatic staff we've had to stand down so it's putting enormous pressure on our resourcing."

Mr Fell said the demand for rapid antigen tests was only increasing as wait times and testing site closures continued.

"We had a couple of big shipments come through on Friday, and they had completely sold through by about lunchtime on Sunday.

"We're hoping to see some more later this week if things go to plan."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government would not supply free at-home testing kits and is instead paying for half the costs of the rapid antigen tests bought by the states and territories to hand out free.

‘This is deplorable': Australians furious as rapid tests run out, stalling work, family plans

  ‘This is deplorable': Australians furious as rapid tests run out, stalling work, family plans Readers from Brisbane to the south of Victoria have expressed frustration at being unable to get their hands on rapid antigen testing kits.Today The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald asked readers of the national news blog for their experiences seeking out rapid tests and at testing lines and responses flooded in from Brisbane to Sydney and right down to Phillip Island in Victoria's south.

"There are no RAT tests anywhere and some families can't afford them in the first place. The system is beyond a joke," Bendigo resident Wendy Street said.

On Tuesday, the Victorian government said it had bought 34 million rapid antigen tests that would soon be made available to the public.

Its health department said only people with COVID-19 symptoms, those who had tested positive on a rapid antigen test, and those who were required to use the tests but could not access one should be tested at a COVID-19 screening clinic.

The department said Victorians should opt for rapid antigen tests, and if they are currently unavailable continue to monitor for symptoms and stay COVID safe.

Digital solution finding RATs

Melbourne's Matthew Hayward launched the website Find A RAT this week where people can report whether rapid antigen tests are available from locations near them.

Mr Hayward told the ABC that between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning there had been 500,000 hits to the website, mainly from Melbourne but some interstate.

Queensland records 5,699 new COVID-19 cases as closed clinics lead to long queues for tests

  Queensland records 5,699 new COVID-19 cases as closed clinics lead to long queues for tests Queensland records 5,699 new cases of COVID-19 as thousands of people wait hours in line at testing clinics across the state.There are 11 people in ICU in hospital and two of those are on a ventilator.

He said 41,000 people accessed the website between 10am and 10:30am Tuesday.

"Effectively the way it works is all just community-sourced, so people can go on there and look at all the reports of where doesn't have stock, where does have stock, low stock, and the area," he said.

"And then if you have a tip for where there might be stock you can add a report and say 'yeah, at this location, you know, this Woolies, for example, or this Coles, they've got stock or no stock' to help other people that might be looking for them."

Search engine data from Google shows searches for "rapid antigen tests" in Australia have risen over the past month, peaking on December 29.

Creswick resident Bel Ellams said a five-pack of rapid antigen tests should be given to every household.

"Put the census to good use and help communities get through this," she said.

Avoid emergency departments

Ballarat Health Services has reminded people not to turn up to emergency departments for testing and is urging those struggling to find rapid antigen tests to stay home and isolate until they find an outlet with stock.

Bass Coast Health chief executive Jan Childs said people who need to prove they are COVID negative to travel interstate are still joining the PCR queues at Wonthaggi because they can not find the rapid tests locally.

"We are walking the [testing] line and asking them to prioritise so that we can help those people who do have COVID and we can get them organised and safe," she said.

It comes as the health authority was forced to close its COVID testing station on the popular tourist spot of Phillip Island due to staffing shortages.

Its other testing site at Wonthaggi closed at midday yesterday because of high demand.

[Click through to send us your questions about COVID-19]

Top doctor lifts lid on Australia's WOEFUL Covid rapid test rollout .
A top doctor who ran the WHO's emergency medical unit said he warned the Australian government to stock up on rapid antigen tests six months ago and the shortage was avoidable.Former head of the World Health Organisation's emergency medical unit, Dr Ian Norton, said he pleaded with Australia's political leaders and health officials to secure large supplies of the test kits six months ago.

See also