The economic benefits of the Federal Government providing free rapid antigen tests (RATs) outweighs the cost of buying the tests, according to Flinders University.
The research comes after considerable public pressure on the Morrison Government over the past few weeks to provide at-home tests free.
The Prime Minister announced on Wednesday that Australians with a concession card would be able to receive 10 free tests over three months.
Flinders University found that providing free tests to 10,000 Australians would cost the Government $100,000.
However, they would be spending less on PCR tests (which are about $150 each), which then reduces the additional costs to the Government to around $52,000.
The research also found that allowing everyone free access to rapid antigen tests would result in successfully isolating an additional 464 people.
This would mean an additional 464 people that wouldn’t be spreading the virus to others, reducing the costs to the economy even further.
“The costs of these people isolating only after developing symptoms would likely be far higher than the extra $52,000 spent on tests,” Professor Jon Karnon, Professor Billie Bonevski and associate professor Hossein Afzali from Flinders University said.
“Dividing the $52,000 by the 464 earlier isolating cases gives us an estimate of the cost to the Government per additional earlier isolating person with COVID – $112.”
However, the research notes that the less COVID circulating, the less effective giving away free rapid antigen tests for all would be.
“But even with low prevalence, it’s still highly likely to be cost-effective,” Bonevski and Afzali said.
“Constraining the spread of COVID is important for many reasons, including avoiding short- and long-term health effects, reducing burden on the health system, and increasing availability of essential workers.
“Easy and equitable access to testing is a cornerstone of the public health response to COVID. It also makes economic sense.”