This week, Scott Morrison insisted that the provision of rapid antigenic testing for those who show no symptoms or who have not been invited to be tested by authorities should be left to the “private market”.
After referring to what he called “more occasional uses” of rapid tests, the PM said: “We are now at another stage in this pandemic where we just can’t go around and everything. make it free. “
While some state governments – primarily New South Wales and Victoria – said last week that they wanted to distribute rapid antigen tests free of charge to the general public, they subsequently watered down those commitments.
However, some overseas governments have taken a very different approach to rapid testing. Here are some examples.
Perhaps the best-known example to most Australians, the UK government offers people access to free self-administered rapid antigen tests through the National Health Service.
They are provided free of charge at local pharmacies, and residents can obtain a “collection code” and then collect them.
Individuals can also purchase two packs of seven rapid tests at community locations such as libraries. And they can also be ordered through a home delivery service.
NHS website ratings people might wish to take a free test when they “mingle with people in crowded indoor places” or “visit someone who is at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19”. These are examples of what the Australian government considers “occasional uses” for such tests.
Some Australians in the UK have noted the contrast between the two systems.
“It’s so good that they are free,” said Jordan Marshall, an Australian living in London. “My partner is a paramedic, so we’ve been pretty proactive with the tests. Marshall says she probably used about 20 rapid tests over about three months, many of them before Christmas.
“While there have been some supply issues, the fact that we can have boxes delivered to your doorstep means you can have a greater level of confidence that you are not spreading it in the community. “, she says.
The Singaporean government sent households 10 free rapid antigenic tests by post between October and December. He undertook a similar process, providing for six tests per household, between august and september. The government also has a program that offers free rapid test kits to employers, who then provide them to workers. By October, 11,000 companies had registered, reports the Straits Times.
Tests sold at retailers are also now considerably cheaper than those currently offered in Australia, where tests cost between $ 10 and $ 15 each, but have since exploded to as high as $ 30 to $ 40 apiece in some cases.
As of December 10, it was reported that Singaporean retailers were stocking ‘Flowflex’ tests at $ 5 each, while a five-pack costs $ 24.
Rapid home test kits are considered a “controlled item” in Malaysia and the supply is controlled by the government. They are sold in drugstores with a capped price of $ 6.60, although they are often cheaper than that.
Aliya Ahmad, a Pakistani Australian who visits her parents who live in Malaysia, says the tests tend to cost between $ 2 and $ 6 each. “Pharmacies and drugstores are everywhere, at least in the town where I live,” says Ahmad. “Also, although I can only really speak about what I have observed myself, it seems the general practice is to take one before going to a large gathering or a house with elders. . “
Since the end of last month, France has made rapid self-administered tests available in supermarkets. They are subject to price checks, which means they cannot cost more than $ 8 per test. The government has urged residents to use the tests before New Year’s celebrations.
Rapid antigenic tests administered at pharmacies are free. Citizens can get four of these tests per month, although this was extended to six tests in December before Christmas.
Self-administered antigen rapid test kits are also available in stores, usually for around $ 4 to $ 6 per test. A negative rapid test is required to enter certain sites across Portugal.
Some Canadian provinces, such as Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, have offered free rapid tests through local distribution centers. In the case of Nova Scotia400,000 tests were reportedly distributed to local libraries in December (the population is around 970,000), although the initiative came to an end at the end of last month. Ontario, where Toronto is located, is offering a free take-away quick test to residents in a vacation trial blitz that will run this month.
The federal government also has a program offer free rapid tests to businesses.
Germany offers free rapid antigenic tests once a week at testing centers. Self-administered take-out kits are also available at drugstores and, according to Bloomberg, were on sale for as low as around $ 2.50 in November.
The United States has been hit by a shortage of rapid tests in many places and the costs are broadly comparable to Australia.
In some cities, free tests are offered to the general public in withdrawal, subject to provision. For example, Washington DC residents can get a free home rapid test at local schools.
The Biden administration intends to distribute 500m rapid test kits free of charge to people to use at home. It is expected that the tests will be sent from this month.
Free doesn’t always mean available
It should be noted that, like Australia, many of these countries have been affected by supply shortages. The Guardian reported that the UK’s free rapid testing system has been hit by supply issues that have frustrated residents during the holiday season.
And, unlike some other countries, high-quality PCR tests remain free in Australia, although the government is now trying to limit them to people who are symptomatic or high-risk close contacts.
With the Australian system under massive pressure, it has become incredibly difficult to get tested and some results take up to five days to come back.
The national cabinet is expected to determine concessional deals on Wednesday that could give some Australians access to cheaper rapid antigen testing. Some states are also expected to provide more details on their plans for distributing free rapid tests, although these will likely only apply to certain vulnerable groups.