Australians holding concession cards will be able to access up to 10 free rapid antigen tests as the country battles record case numbers, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.
Over a three month period, people with concession cards will be able to access up to 10 tests from pharmacies, with a maximum of five tests in one month.
These cards include Commonwealth seniors health cards, healthcare cards, low income cards, pensioner concession cards, DVA Gold cards and DVA white cards.
The states and federal governments will split the cost of the subsidy, with Morrison estimating 6 million people will benefit from the scheme. The Government plans to have the scheme in place within the next two weeks.
More on rapid antigen tests:
Close contacts and those with symptoms will also be able to access free rapid tests at testing clinics, with PCR tests now reserved for people for whom it’s “essential” they receive a laboratory test, Morrison said.
“Universal free access to tests was not agreed by any of the states and territories today, or the Commonwealth,” Morrison said.
“We need to ensure we focus the testing resources on the essential tests that are required, not the casual test.”
$66,000 fines for price gouging
Pharmacists and retailers caught artificially inflating the price of rapid tests also face penalties of up to $66,000, under the Biosecurity Act, Morrison announced.
“If you are selling a rapid antigen test for more than a 120 per cent markup on what you have paid for it, to supply it, then you will be in breach of that regulation and that carries a penalty of $66,000 and up to five years in jail,” he said.
People caught attempting to buy rapid tests and sold overseas will also face penalties.
However, Morrison has resisted calls to make the tests free for all Australians, saying it would not be a “silver bullet”, and he doesn’t want to undercut businesses.
Earlier on Wednesday, Opposition leader Anthony Albanese slammed the Government’s decision not to provide free tests for all, with Labor leader Anthony Albanese saying Australians are “crying out for action”.
“The economic consequences of this Government’s failure to put in place a proper system is there for all to see ... And it’s clear that the cost of tests is dwarfed by the cost of inaction,” Albanese said on Wednesday.
He called on the Government to purchase the rapid tests at a national level and work with the state and territory leaders to make them available.
“It is very clear that the simplest way to do this is to make those tests free and make them available,” he said.