Less well-off Australians could soon receive cash payments to buy rapid antigen tests as authorities ramp up their crackdown on price gouging of the Covid testing kits.
Low-income earners, welfare recipients, pensioners, the unemployed and veterans are among those who would benefit from Scott Morrison’s proposed incentive as Australia’s Omicron wave surges towards 50,000 daily infections.
The Prime Minister is under mounting pressure to make rapid antigen tests free as widespread shortages of the critical Covid testing kits hit crisis point.
Retailers, including burger restaurants, convenience stores and service stations, are now taking advantage of their scarce supply to sell the tests five times the RRP to up to $50 each on delivery platforms such as UberEats, which sparked furious outrage.
Disadvantaged Australians will be able to apply for a cash payment on rapid antigen tests if the Prime Minister’s proposal gets the green light from national cabinet (pictured Sydneysiders in Bondi on Tuesday after the state recorded more than 23,000 new cases)
Recipients will receive cash payments for up to five rapid antigen tests under Mr Morrison’s proposal, which could even be doubled if states agree to the incentive at Wednesday’s national cabinet.
The government handouts will be distributed through the same system used for Covid disaster payments earlier on in the pandemic, where recipients will meet an eligibility test in order to receive the cash boost, The Australian reported.
Mr Morrison will also ask the state and territory governments to contribute 50 per cent of the cost of the scheme after the national cabinet previously agreed last week on free testing for the disadvantaged.
The federal government is also expected to announce on Wednesday that millions of ‘click and collect’ free take-home tests will be distributed at testing sites to ease the enormous strain on pathology labs which are taking up to five days to process results due to overwhelming demand.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese reiterated calls for free RAT tests for everyone after Mr Morrison rejected the move earlier this week.
The federal government is expected to announce that millions of ‘click and collect’ free take-home tests will be available at testing sites (pictured, queues at a Sydney testing clinic)
‘I think that anyone who needs a rapid antigen test shouldn’t be excluded from it because of their income,’ Mr Albanese told the ABC on Tuesday night.
‘Our health system is based upon the principle of Medicare – that people get the healthcare they need when they require it.’
‘I would have no problem with that whatsoever. At the moment, people can’t get access to supply and, if they can, for so many people it’s simply unaffordable.’
Meanwhile, a popular burger restaurant in Adelaide has been forced to defend the price its charges for RAT tests after being named and shamed online.
The Big Grill was inundated with public backlash and negative online reviews after a potential customer spotted the restaurant’s Boliver outlet in Adelaide’s north selling a rapid test for $50 on UberEats.
‘Not even a joke. RESTAURANTS buying up RATs and selling them on UBER for x5 of the RRP. You should be able to buy a five pack for roughly $50, not a single test. Still don’t want to undercut businesses Scott Morrison when they are putting lives at risk by this practice?’ the man tweeted.
The Big Grill in Adelaide’s north was charging up to $50 for a RAT test on the UberEats app. The restaurant has since taken it down
He later stated The Big Grill has since deleted the offering on the UberEats but called on Aussies to name and shame other businesses employing similar tactics.
‘For those getting outraged at this, can you spend 10 minutes of your time today going onto Uber Eats, finding places selling them for ridiculous amounts, and report them to UberEats @ACCCProdSafety,’ he wrote.
The roadside restaurant has responded the outrage and clarified its prices while slamming UberEats for its ‘exorbitant’ fees.
‘There has been much confusion in regards to the pricing of our COVID RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS. These are priced in accordance to the current market prices,’ The Big Grill posted on Tuesday night.
‘We sell a two pack of Rapid Antigen Tests for $40 in store and we sell a 2 Pack of Rapid Antigen Tests for $50 through our delivery partners, the price increase is due to their exorbitant fees.
‘We are aware of multiple posts being shared with misinformation and in regards to our pricing and requesting people leave poor reviews on our social media and Google.
‘We would like to apologise for the confusion caused and hope this resolves any issues and concerns.’
The man’s tweet was met with other Australians naming and shaming businesses gouging the price of rapid tests.
There are calls for rapid antigen tests to be free for everyone, not just the disadvantaged as their scarce supply worsens (pictured, an out of stock sign at a Sydney pharmacy)
Crystal Mart Waterloo convenience store in inner-Sydney was charging $60 for a pack of two tests on UberEats, while Ready To Go Convenience in Hurlstone Park slugged customers $65.
Further north, the Ultra Convenience service station in Edgeworth near Newcastle charged $42.95 for two tests.
Australia’s consumer watchdog has promised to crack down on ‘appalling’ price gouging of rapid tests amid a nation-wide shortage.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced on Tuesday it has set up a team to investigate issues with supply, costs and pricing.
‘(Businesses) shouldn’t be engaging in cartel conduct,’ ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
‘We have the ability to name and shame people if they are doing the wrong thing… (and that) is extremely powerful.’
Australia’s Omicron wave surges towards 50,000 daily infections as the debate about raid antigen test rages on (pictured shoppers in Melbourne on Tuesday, when Victoria recorded more than 14,000 cases)
Ready To Go Convenience in Hurlstone Park in Sydney’s inner-west was charging $65 for a pack of two RAT tests on UberEats
WHEN SHOULD YOU GET A PCR TEST FOR COVID?
With immense pressure on Australia’s healthcare system from record Covid cases, testing clinics are overwhelmed along with the labs that process the results.
Health authorities have urged that only the follow groups get a PCR test.
*Anyone who has Covid-19 symptoms like a sore throat
*Anyone who has been deemed a close contact
*Anyone who has received a positive rapid-antigen test
*Anyone who has been in a superspreader venue which health authorities have advised there is a high-risk of transmission
Australia reported 47,738 new Covid cases on Tuesday, smashing the previous day’s national record of 38,000.
NSW recorded 23,131 new Covid cases and two deaths on Tuesday while Victoria’s cases exploded by almost double to a record high of 14,020 new infections.
Queensland recorded 5669 new cases, while South Australia had 3246 and 75 were detected in the Northern Territory.
Australia has now recorded more than half a million Covid cases, almost two years after reporting its first case in January 2020.
The Big Grill defended its rapid test prices on Tuesday night, claiming ‘current market prices’