• Tony Bosworth

EXPLAINER - who can get free RATs in the Hawkesbury and how the testing system has changed

Updated: Jan 8

Who can get free Rapid Antigen Tests?

Up to 10 RATS will be offered free to more than 6 million concession card-holders under a new National Cabinet agreement signed off on yesterday but everyone else – let’s say you are not a close contact of a case, and yet you have symptoms, you will still have to pay for a RAT.

How come?

State and territory leaders met yesterday - Wednesday - to work out how to overcome the national testing crisis which has seen pathology services overwhelmed, rapid tests in short supply, and price gouging by some retailers.

It’s sometimes hard to get RATS – will this new system help?

We’ll have to see. Supplies will become available within the next two weeks, says the Prime Minister, but limited to 10 each for those concession holders over the next three months – with no more than five per month. The RATs will be handed out through pharmacies. There's no news on how many RATs will be available in general.

Who exactly gets the free RATs?

The 6.6 million people eligible include those with Commonwealth seniors cards, healthcare cards, low-income cards, pension cards and DVA gold and white cards.

Does this bring us into line with other countries?

Not really, no – RATs are free in the UK, for example, to anyone who needs them, and while US residents have to currently buy RATs, some half a billion RATs have been ordered and will arrive later this month and be handed out free.

What are the changes to the testing system? Can I still go to a test centre?

The changes include ditching a requirement that someone who tests positive using a RAT confirms the result with a PCR test (at a test centre), plus exempting truck drivers, those being admitted to hospital, and overseas travellers from most testing requirements.

Basically, if you do a RAT and it is positive, you do not need to get a PCR test, you simply need to isolate and if your condition gets serious then you need to go to hospital.

If someone in your household is positive - so you are a household contact - then you can still go and get a PCR test.

“If you are not a close contact, if you are not symptomatic, you do not need to get a test – that is the advice,” PM Morrison said yesterday.

“We need to ensure that we are focusing those testing resources on the essential tests that are required, not casual tests,” he said.

He confirmed that PCR testing at test centres would still be free but you should only go along if you have symptoms.

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