Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has gone back on a crucial health stance that could potentially see “millions” of people suffer.
Speaking ahead of his trip to the Pacific Islands Forum, Albanese urged concession cardholders to stock up on free rapid antigen tests as the federal government prepares to end access to 10 free tests every three months on July 31.
Despite being staunch in his beliefs that rapid antigen tests should be free for all Australians, the Labor PM has said his hands are tied over this decision due to the “inherited” circumstances from the previous Liberal government.
“I’d encourage concession card holders to go and get the 10 free rapid antigen tests that they’re eligible for by the end of this month. There’s still a lot of time to go and do that,” Albanese said.
Amidst the government’s decision to end free access for concession cardholders, Health Minister Mark Butler says they’re expecting “millions” of people to become infected with the latest Covid-19 variant.
“There are going to be millions of people infected by Covid in this coming few weeks’ period,” Butler said.
“We have 250,000 to 300,000 people today who are infected on official data. The real number’s probably twice that, or maybe even more, according to what we understand about this variant.
“Which is why our focus has been on boosters, on that fourth dose being made much more widely available.”
Millions of Australians are now eligible for a fourth COVID vaccination from today. You’re not fully protected against the Omicron variants with only two doses. Get boosted and let’s get through winter.
— Mark Butler MP (@Mark_Butler_MP) July 10, 2022
Albanese has faced criticism for not extending free access to rapid antigen tests, labelling his reasoning a “cop out”.
Can someone please tell @AlboMP that new governments can make new decisions! Now is not the time to withdraw free RATs and Covid support payments. And blaming the ‘trillion dollar debt’ is a cop out. How about they cut some of those fossil fuel subsidies instead. #RNBreakfast
— Penny Allman-Payne (@penejane70) July 12, 2022
If it’s costing me $50 for a pack of 5 RATs (which I have to spend because I don’t have any concession options), I’m betting they’re a great deal cheaper in bulk. Even govt subsidisation would be acceptable right now. $50 is a big hole in a self funded retiree budget.
— Jassieone ???? #wearamask (@jassieone) July 13, 2022
What could possibly go wrong? Covid running riot in our community ; gig/ casual workers with no sick leave deciding whether to eat or isolate and those in government not making the hard decisions because of elections.
If only we had a crystal ball?
— MargaridaPap (@MargaridaPap) July 12, 2022
The government’s decision to end the federal program stands against Union and medical experts’ advice and comes as pandemic leave payments and telehealth consultations are pulled back.