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Up to 6 million extra rapid Covid tests – but not for the public

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The number of new Covid cases rocketed to 1472 on Wednesday, while the number of people hospitalised remained steady at 37.Soaring case numbers across the country have left PCR testing capabilities overrun and fuelled a push towards self-administered rapid antigen testing.Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who will on Thursday convene an emergency meeting of the National Cabinet, said the Omicron variant required a “gear change” in testing arrangements.He said government-provided rapid tests should be used to screen close contacts, asymptomatic international arrivals, healthcare workers and those who work in high-risk settings such as residential aged care. Aged-care residents would also be screened in the event of an outbreak.“In other casual settings, it’s a matter of going off to the chemist, and I can tell you that we are (and) have been working with the suppliers in that industry,” he said.However, of the 18 Adelaide supermarkets and chemists contacted by The Advertiser on Wednesday, 17 had no stock and one had sold out by 11am.Mr Marshall, who last week said there were “millions” of test kits ready to be rolled out in SA, defended the shortage.“We’ve got to preserve those for the areas which are most important for us at the moment, which is the healthcare settings, and making sure that they’re used there appropriately,” he said.NED-4835-rapid-Covid-test“We know that they are available, not widely available, but they are available in South Australia and there will be more and more that come on to the shelves in the coming days.”Health authorities confirmed on Wednesday the state government had secured 4-6 million extra testing kits, which would also be used in healthcare settings.The cost of that order is split 50-50 between the state and federal governments.Also on Wednesday, the Victorian health minister announced that state had secured 34 million kits that would be delivered by the end of January.Unlike SA, they will be provided free and made widely available to Victorians.NSW authorities have also flagged free testing kits will be provided to the public. That state will buy 30 million additional tests after an initial order of 20 million.However, Mr Marshall said SA was at a different outbreak stage and there was no plan to distribute the tests to the public for free.Tiser – Rapid antigen tests in other statesRapid antigen testing kits are now available, allowing Australians to test themselves at home and find out in minutes if they have Covid-19. This is how they work.“We’ve now got to, with this outbreak, listen to the public health officials. They have not provided that advice whatsoever,” he said.“There is a real worry of people using these incorrectly so we will listen to the public health advice that we have in South Australia,” he said.The state opposition and Greens have both backed a call to make the tests, which sell for $10-15 per swab, available for free in SA. Mr Marshall said stories of 10-hour testing queues were “absolutely devastating”, but cited SA Health advice that those with bookings were prioritised and have been waiting only about an hour.On Wednesday afternoon, more than 700 people had joined an online queue to book a test appointment at the Ridgehaven drive-through testing clinic. The earliest available appointment was on Sunday.



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