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Covid testing chaos driven by selfish state governments

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“Crisis averted”, “Ashes not in jeopardy” and “Cricketers cleared to play”.If only the rest of us could dismiss exposure to Covid with a handful of rapid tests and a half-hour wait.An outbreak of four Covid cases in the English cricketers’ camp led to a mere half-hour delay during which players did some rapid tests before receiving the all-clear.Not all cricketers have been given this special treatment, as captain Pat Cummins discovered after exposure to a positive Covid case at a restaurant in South Australia.But in most cases, there’s one rule for the elite and another for the rest of us.As Aussies battle border closures and ever-changing state entry rules, the Tasmanian government has guaranteed entry to cricketers for the fifth Ashes Test next month.In comparison, thousands of families have spent the Christmas season queuing up for hours to get a PCR test because they’re close contacts or need a negative test for travel.An estimated 30,000 people spent Christmas alone – not because they had Covid, but because they were following the rules and isolating.Countless others cancelled trips at great expense because their negative tests didn’t come through in time.Instead of being rewarded for our high vaccination rates and willingness to be tested, we are still being subjected to ludicrous, invasive rules requiring negative PCR tests before travelling to states such as Queensland.At home in Victoria we are also subjected to week-long isolation and repeated PCR tests when deemed a household contact. This isn’t just confined to people we live with but includes people with Covid we’ve spent as little as four hours with.A lack of symptoms and repeated negative rapid tests aren’t enough to release us.Some people are waiting up to five days after a final day-six PCR test to get the result.After all we’ve been through, it’s ridiculous that a 10c text message is the only thing standing between us and our freedom.By just 10am on Boxing Day, 20 testing clinics had already closed because they were full and pathology labs were struggling to keep up.The huge queues at testing clinics mean some people with symptoms, or close contacts who have been told to get tested, are giving up and going home.The decision of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to require PCR testing 72 hours before arrival in the state has put enormous pressure on Victorian testing sites.It’s estimated that one in five of those getting tested are doing so to travel interstate.Queensland authorities are not even checking every person’s testing status, but opting for haphazard random checks.If it was really that important, don’t you think they’d check everyone?Days after people were forced to cancel holidays because they didn’t get their test results back in time, Palaszczuk announced the cruel rule will be scrapped.It’s not because the case numbers in her state are dropping – in fact they are increasing – but because it’s crippling the testing system around the country.This is a situation created by selfish politically driven state governments.Why not follow the lead of the UK and give all close contacts seven free rapid tests to be administered at home?Why not allow asymptomatic people to clear themselves from isolation using these rapid tests?Why not open more 24-hour testing clinics and boost staff numbers? Covid commander Jeroen Weimar said capacity had been increased 50 per cent over the past three months, but it’s clearly not enough.And why not hire enough staff so it doesn’t take a week to tell people they’re close contacts?The government can organise a crowd of 57,000 people at the MCG but can’t efficiently run testing sites for twice that number of people.This is all compounded by shortages of rapid antigen tests. The Pharmacy Guild says there’s plenty of stock but “we just don’t seem to have it in the right places where we need it”.It’s simply not good enough.It comes as new data shows very few people with Omicron end up in hospital, and most that do are unvaccinated or have existing health conditions.Yes, we need to test if we’re close contacts or have symptoms, and isolate if we’re positive, but the past few weeks have been a diabolical disgrace. After two years of Covid restrictions and endless lockdowns, we deserve to enjoy our country and go where we want to go.Isn’t that why we all got vaccinated in the first place?I am glad 2022 is both a state and federal election year. Bring it on. I can’t wait to vent my frustrations at the ballot box.Susie O’Brien is a Herald Sun columnist



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