US & UK shame RAT Morrison

The US government announced over the weekend that it would provide one billion free rapid antigen tests (RAT) to its citizens, while the UK government has been providing free RATs for months through chemists and online.

However, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt says the federal government does not intend to follow the US’s lead, while he has blamed a shortage of RATs on a “global challenge”.

Meanwhile, Labor has repeated its call for RATs to be free, while claiming some Australians are finding it “impossible” to find even one.

From The New Daily:

“I think that US system, as I say, is about one and a half tests per capita per head of population,” [Greg Hunt] said.

“The Australian purchases at this stage are over eight per head of population, and that’s the distribution system that has been agreed with the states and territories”…

The Opposition has criticised the federal government for failing to improve access to rapid tests…

“Australians are finding it almost impossible to get their hands on a rapid test. When they do so, they are paying as much as $100 for a test that their government should be providing them for free”, [Labor’s shadow health minister Mark Butler said].

Coalition ministers have claimed Labor’s approach would encourage people to hoard rapid tests, an argument the Opposition has rubbished.

A fortnight ago, I had cold symptoms after socialising with people that later tested positive for COVID. However, I didn’t bother getting tested as I couldn’t be bothered waiting five plus hours in a testing queue only to be turned away, nor could I source a RAT for under $60. Instead, I isolated at home for a week and self-managed my mild symptoms. So I might have been a COVID statistic; although we will never know. Several other families in my social circle shared similar experiences.

Indeed, ACCC head Rod Sims today expressed “significant concerns” over RAT prices, which are being sold at ‘scalper’ prices:

The ACCC has received over 1800 reports from consumers concerned about the price of rapid antigen tests after it first announced its probe in December, with an increasing number of people concerned about sales in service stations and convenience stores…

“At the extreme end, we have received reports or seen media coverage of tests costing up to $500 for two tests through online marketplaces, and over $70 per test through convenience stores, service stations and independent supermarkets, which is clearly outrageous.

“There are several businesses that have repeatedly come to our notice thanks to the information provided by the public. We are asking those businesses to urgently explain the prices they are charging.”

My personal view is that RATs should be provided free at testing sites and for a nominal price (circa $2) at pharmacies (free to concession card holders). Setting a small fee would discourage hoarding and waste, while also providing the community with widespread access.

Whichever way you cut it, the current system is an abject failure that has facilitated ‘scalper’ pricing of RATs and denied tests to Australians when they need them most.

It is also perverse that the government is willing to spend many multiples more on free PCR tests, but is unwilling to properly subsidise lower cost RATs.

When it comes to the Morrison Government’s COVID management, nothing is logical or well thought out.

Unconventional Economist

Comments

    • Worth knowing who your going to pass it on to. 50% of covid beds are filled with the 5% of the unvaxed population. Watch out for granny and you anti vaxer mates

          • In the UK they are actively trying to restrict their use, most people who use them, teachers, nurses, get a positive result and get a weak off free pay. In the meantime, some hospitals have a quarter of their staff off, most with no symptoms.
            All of Europe is now moving to make an epidemic (I think Spain and Italy already have) – most will no longer want you to take time off if there are no symptoms.
            Laughably, only five weeks ago, Imperial College were suggesting that lockdown in the UK was desperately needed, and 6k people were going to die a day!

          • In the UK they are actively trying to restrict their use, most people who use them, teachers, nurses, get a positive result and get a week off free pay. In the meantime, some hospitals have a quarter of their staff off, most (the vast majority) with no symptoms.

            All of Europe is now moving to make an epidemic (I think Spain and Italy already have) – most will no longer want you to take time off if there are no symptoms.

            Laughably, only five or six weeks ago, Imperial College were suggesting that lockdown in the UK was desperately needed, and 6k people were going to die a day! The JP Morgan medical analyst went behind their numbers, they were using omicron transmission rates, but delta death rates, moreover, they didn’t take into account that omicron affects the upper respiratory system, not the lungs as all the older variants.

            The experts and the general panic about the almost benign pandemic, appalling. In saying that, happy to be vaccinated twice, and boosted, but have no intention of any more shots.

            [what’s with the editing above???]

          • Sensationalist news reports, eg the likes of the Murdoch press, Daily Mail etc took the extremes of figures quoted by imperiral college and other medical/scientific sources and printed it as if it were an absolute statement. These people are not stupid. They gave a spread of probability from min to max and warned caution before letting the omicron variant run wild. It has been proved that omicron will still put lots of people in hospital and 20x more if not vaccinated than vaccinated people. Testing is necessary to stop the spread. Not as bad as Delta fortunately and medical treatment has improved enormously since last year, also worth noting that hospitals are nearly full right now with covid patients, both in the UK and Aus. Worth actually reading the real articles https://www.imperial.ac.uk/mrc-global-infectious-disease-analysis/covid-19/covid-19-reports/ rather than the worthless opinions of the gutter press and right wing radio nutjobs.

  1. It’s a supply problem though.

    No amount of price fixing is going to solve the fact there aren’t enough being supplied.

    Fix supply, and the price will normalise at cost+ modest markup. Probably ~$10-15

    • Strange Economics of house price gougingMEMBER

      Actually the comment belongs here…

      Meanwhile price gouging for RATs gets an instant reply “The consumer watchdog is cracking down on businesses seeking to take advantage of the shortage of tests.”

      Are we going to see: ! SOON a dream announcement ! LOL:
      “The government is cracking down on businesses seeking to take advantage of the shortage of affordable rental and Low income housing.”
      Now that 0% of capital city housing is affordable for half the population…and homelessness takes more off life expectancy..

  2. scottb1978MEMBER

    Isn’t it just that saying they will make them free highlights they didn’t plan ahead. So they probably will “change their minds” once there is available supply.

    • happy valleyMEMBER

      Nah – Scotty from Marketing is pandering to the pharmacy lobby group and Hardly Normal?

  3. kiwikarynMEMBER

    In NZ they are still illegal to use. Only 4 tests have been permitted by the Ministry of Health and these are only available through medical providers, none for home self testing. It is also illegal to import them, so companies are unable to get them for staff. We are so well prepared for Omicron, not.

  4. The problem lies in expecting the PM to hold a hose.
    Mind due the whole thing is getting absurd with old Hardly Normal getting involved.
    Just what you need to pick up with your lounge suite a 20 pack of RAT tests.

  5. TheLambKingMEMBER

    My personal view is that RATs should be provided free at testing sites and for a nominal price (circa $2) at pharmacies (free to concession card holders). Setting a small fee would discourage hoarding and waste, while also providing the community with widespread access.

    This does my head in. The LNP/Murdoch/Chemart (and now you) is that the Labor plan to give away free RATs would cause hording, waste and cost huge amount of money. FFS ARE YOU ALL FN IDIOTS? Why is the media so brain dead when the LNP idots sprout this rubbish All other countries that give away free tests have some mechanism to stop hording and people taking huge amounts. Take about 5 seconds of thought and I am sure you can come up with some way of distributing FREE tests. Here is what some countries are doing:
    – free health care system give a packet to every person. When they register the results of the tests they send (or you pick up) another packet.
    – You go to a chemist and use your health care care to request a packet – the chemist can see if you have taken 20 packets in the last week and will then not give you one.

    You didn’t get a test because there was a ‘cost’ involved (time or money) – they need to be free

    • Arthur Schopenhauer

      It wouldn’t promote hoarding if they just gave all Australians 8 RATS a month, or something like that.

    • kierans777MEMBER

      I agree. You could always make a certain amount free and then charge a modest fee ($2) after that to help reign in the cost. Still would prevent hoarding and wastage.

  6. They’re wildly inaccurate. The way I see it, people want to get back to normal and they feel this is a “safe” way to transition. But after a month or so people will get over it and just stop using them. So sure if it helps people get out from under the doona let’s give them away for free. But if you think it’s going to change health outcomes you’re dreaming.