Most believe rapid tests should be free

Colin Brinsden |

Almost three-quarters of Australians say rapid antigen tests should be free, while more than half believe governments have failed to adequately plan over the past two years to deal with challenges that have been throw up by Omicron.

A survey by the Australian Institute found 72 per cent of respondents believe the federal government should provide rapid tests free to everyone, including two-thirds of coalition voters.

Just 16 per cent believe retailers should continue to sell them to individuals.

“Rather than wanting government out of their lives, it is clear that most Australians believe the government has a responsibility to provide rapid antigen tests free to the public,” the institute’s deputy director Ebony Bennett said.

“Australians have tried to do the right thing, but the Morrison government’s failure to secure adequate supplies of affordable rapid antigen tests left many Australians in desperate situations over the summer.”

The survey of 1000 Australians taken last week also found 53 per cent of respondents believe governments failed to plan adequately over the past two years to avoid the current problems of pressure on the public health system, supply chain issues and staffing shortages.

“Empty supermarket shelves and businesses empty of staff and customers show the reality is that there can be no healthy economy without healthy people,” Ms Bennett said.

“Rather than lecturing Australians about taking personal responsibility, these polling results are a wake-up call for the prime minister that many people feel let down by government.”  

Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler agreed Prime Minister Scott Morrison should have listened to warnings back in September and ordered enough tests for Australians to get through this fourth wave.

“Instead, Australians are finding it almost impossible to get their hands on a rapid test,” Mr Butler told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.

“When they do so, they are paying as much as $100 for a test that their government should be providing them for free.”

However, Health Minister Greg Hunt has provided some positive news on the outlook, saying there are signs of the Omicron spread peaking in NSW and the ACT.

“I won’t call it as having reached it yet, but in particular what we’ve seen, is that all of these jurisdictions have so far significantly undershot the hospitalisation, ICU and ventilation predictions that were made at the outset,” he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

Such predictions came as NSW announced another 34,660 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday along with a further 20 virus-related deaths.

Victoria posted 28,128 new COVID-19 infections and another 13 deaths, while Queensland reported 17,455 cases and three deaths.

The death toll also rose in the ACT, where there were two fatalities alongside 1316 new cases.

Tasmania has 825 new cases and the Northern Territory 327. Alice Springs will also enforce a seven-day ‘lockout’ of anyone not yet double-dosed.