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Rapid COVID test provision will need revisiting later, says Barr, but concession expansion a ‘start’ | The Canberra Times

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The provision system for rapid antigen tests will need to be revisited later in the pandemic, but a shift to make more free tests available was a significant win at national cabinet, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says. Mr Barr said addressing the issue of making rapid antigen tests available to low-income earners was a start. “I recognise it’s not the total answer and the journey and unpredictability of this pandemic, I think, will mean we’ll need to revisit this issue,” Mr Barr told the ABC’s 7.30 program on Wednesday evening. National cabinet met earlier in the afternoon and agreed to provide limited free rapid antigen tests to concession card holders through pharmacies. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there were 200 million rapid antigen tests coming to Australia within the next month. “But for the next few weeks we do anticipate there will continue to be a lot of tension in the system when it comes to the supply and demand of those tests,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference at Parliament House. “I want to stress at the start as we confirm today that tests for close contacts and those who are symptomatic, they are free … they are the essential tests that are required for public health management.” A PCR test will also no longer be required to diagnose a COVID-19 infection, with people able to rely on rapid test results. The announcements came after the federal government earlier flagged it would introduce payments to eligible people to be able to buy rapid tests from retailers. The push in the national cabinet meeting for free rapid antigen tests for concession card holders came from Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT, and was backed by NSW and Victoria. Mr Barr said before the meeting a proposal the federal government’s proposal to issue needed more work. READ MORE: The Chief Minister, speaking after national cabinet, said there would still be pressure on testing demand, but the changes, which attracted some risks, would help alleviate it. “There’ll be a range of areas where, as a result of today, more free tests will be available. I understand for those who want universal free tests, this is not the complete answer, but it is progress,” he said. “And I think the important point in any public health context, if you need a test, whether you’ve got symptoms or you’re a close contact, you’ll continue to get a free test at a state and territory clinic.” Mr Barr said the current pressures on rapid antigen tests were a supply issue. “There aren’t enough tests, so it doesn’t really matter what the price is, whether they’re free or otherwise, if there aren’t tests to provide,” he said. “I think the important point in any public health context, if you need a test, whether you’ve got symptoms or you’re a close contact, you’ll continue to get a free test at a state and territory clinic and now more people will have more access to more free tests as a result of today.” Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this outbreak of COVID-19 in the ACT is free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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