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From $0 to $55: What rapid tests cost around the world

·3-min read
Rapid antigen tests are offered through different schemes around the world. (Sources: Getty)
Rapid antigen tests are offered through different schemes around the world. (Sources: Getty)

Rapid antigen tests can provide results indicating whether a person has COVID-19 within 15 minutes, however Australians are finding it increasingly difficult to find and afford the tests.

Shoppers have complained of retailers running out of test stock, while others have reported suspected price gouging as individual tests sell for up to $55.

Despite pushes from the Australian Medical Association, unions and social services groups, the Federal Government has so far resisted calls to make the diagnostic instruments free for all.

More on rapid antigen tests:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he doesn’t want to “undercut” businesses, and that Australia was at the stage of the pandemic where the Government “can’t make everything free”.

Morrison has since proposed a system in which welfare recipients apply through an online portal for a payment to cover the cost of some tests.

Here’s how six other countries reduce rapid test costs, or provide them for free: 

UK: Free rapid tests and people register results

The UK offers free tests from pharmacies, schools and other community collection hubs, and tests are also mailed out to homes.

People who use the tests are encouraged to register results with the National Health System.

However, the UK has also struggled with supply as the Omicron variant swept across the country.

Germany: People eligible for one free test a week

In Germany, people are eligible for one free rapid test a week following an announcement in November by Health Minister Jens Spahn.

Germany has more than 15,000 pop-up rapid test centres people can visit, while Germans can also pick up rapid tests for around €1.50 ($2.30). However, the country has faced its own shortages.

Portugal: Four free rapid tests a month

Portugal offers everyone four free rapid tests a month, which are carried out at pharmacies.

People can also pick up rapid tests for around €2.80–€5 ($4.40–$7.80), with profit margins capped at 15 per cent for retailers.

France: Price caps

French people can buy tests from supermarkets, which are subject to price caps keeping them €6 (AU$9.40) or cheaper per test.

Singapore: Three free tests for close contacts

People who have been deemed close contacts can access up to three free testing kits from one of the 100 test-kit vending machines.

Singapore has also provided two rounds of free rapid testing to households, and people can pick up tests for around $6 a kit.

The government has also supplied free tests to employers who then pass them onto workers, with more than 11,000 businesses now having signed up to the scheme. 

USA: Plans to send 500 million kits to households

US President Joe Biden said the government will distribute the 500 million kits to households free of charge, although the first delivery isn’t expected until later this month.

The USA has experienced similar shortages to Australia, as Omicron and holiday travel strained the supply chain.

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