Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told Australians they have no choice but to “press on” despite overwhelming Covid-19 case numbers as he outlined major changes to testing guidelines.
Following the January 5 National Cabinet meeting Morrison announced rapid antigen tests will be made free for low-income workers, pensioners, and welfare recipients. Concession cardholders will have access to up to 10 free rapid antigen tests over a three month period. In a major change to testing regulations, rapid antigen tests will now be used to confirm positive Covid-19 cases, the PCR test will no longer be required to confirm a positive Covid-19 diagnosis. Details of the changes will be worked out over the next two weeks.
Despite surging case numbers across the county, Morrison urged Australians to ‘ride the wave’ and that the nation is in a “good position”.
“What’s the alternative? What we must do is press on,” he said.
“Australia, with its high vaccination rates, is in an even stronger position than the United Kingdom is. We are in the top 10 most vaccinated OECD countries in the world. So we are in a good position to push through or ride the wave.
“That’s why we just have to keep carefully managing these issues as they present.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese renewed his calls for free testing for all Australians, calling Morrison’s proposal “ridiculous”.
“Labor calls on the Morrison Government to make Rapid Antigen Tests free for Australians via Medicare,” he said.
“We have been saying for some time that nobody should be denied a test because they can’t afford one.
“It’s clear from Scott Morrison’s ridiculous proposal today that he has absolutely no appreciation of the skyrocketing cost of these tests or the consequences of his failure to order enough of them, quickly enough.
“We can’t have people at their most vulnerable and contagious being ripped off, or going undiagnosed, or travelling around cities, suburbs and towns searching in vain for tests they can’t find or afford.”
This is too little, too late from the Federal Government. Australians are anxious and want to do the right thing. And the easiest way to do that is to make rapid antigen tests free and available. pic.twitter.com/976t6JoTmG
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) January 5, 2022
Morrison said the Commonwealth and state and territory leaders were all in agreement to not provide the tests for free to all Australians following Wednesday’s National Cabinet meeting.
“Universal free access was not considered the right policy response by all of the states and territories in attendance today, and the Commonwealth,” he said.
“What was agreed, though, was providing, as I flagged two weeks ago, a model to provide concessional access for tests over a three month period, and they will be made available through the pharmacy network.”