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National cupboard: Australia to provide free RAT tests after push from Qld

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has agreed to make rapid antigen tests free, in a massive backflip, after a meeting of national cabinet.

Premiers and chief ministers met with Mr Morrison on Wednesday – less than a week after the last national cabinet meeting – to discuss the testing problems that have plagued Australia since Covid cases began to soar.

It is understood that rapid antigen tests will be made free, with people to be able to collect them from pharmacies.

They will be able to collect 10 tests over three months with the same ID checks as Sudafed.

The change came after a push from Queensland, it is understood.

Camera IconPrime Minister Scott Morrison will discuss rapid antigen tests at national cabinet. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

It comes as demand has skyrocketed for rapid antigen tests with many pharmacies and supermarkets selling out.

Close contacts and casual contacts with symptoms had been able to get free rapid antigen tests from clinics, but these sites have been overwhelmed with huge queues, with a large number forced to shut temporarily due to backlogs.

If people were not close contacts or symptomatic, they would have to buy the rapid tests themselves, raising concerns about affordability for low-income earners, who would have to pay $20 or $30 per test.

The Prime Minister had previously declared he would not make the tests free, so as to not undercut the private market.

“And by making that policy very, very clear, then that means the private market, whether it’s in the big warehouse pharmacies or the other pharmacies or the supermarkets, they can now go and stock their shelves with confidence that they won’t be undercut by the government,” he told the Today Show on Monday.

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