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Free rapid antigen COVID tests: Who’s eligible and where to get them

·5-min read
Hand holds rapid antigen test while wearing gloves, cars in queue for PCR test.
Here's where to find free rapid antigen tests. (Sources: Getty)

More than 712,000 Australians have COVID-19 as of Sunday, with people urged to get tested and isolate if they have symptoms or have been in close contact with a confirmed case.

However, people looking for rapid antigen tests have faced hurdles, both in finding and paying for them.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sounded the alarm on rapid tests costing as much as $70 each on Monday, describing it as “concerning pricing”.

It’s assessing more than 1,800 complaints of unfair pricing, noting that wholesale prices for tests cost as little as $3.95.

“At the extreme end, we have received reports or seen media coverage of tests costing up to $500 for two tests through online marketplaces, and over $70 per test through convenience stores, service stations and independent supermarkets, which is clearly outrageous,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“There are several businesses that have repeatedly come to our notice thanks to the information provided by the public. We are asking those businesses to urgently explain the prices they are charging.”

The ACCC is now contacting more than 40 retailers, pharmacy chains and test suppliers with requests to justify their pricing.

The Federal Government has stopped short of supplying free tests in the same way countries including the US, UK and Singapore have, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying he “won’t undercut” private businesses.

However, the Government has rolled out a scheme allowing concession card holders access to 10 free tests.

Additionally, several states and territories offer free rapid tests through various schemes.

Here’s where to find free rapid tests:

Australia

Where: People can access free rapid tests from participating pharmacies.

Eligibility: This scheme is only available to people who hold these concession cards:

  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange Card

  • Health Care Card

  • Low Income Health Card

  • Pensioner Concession Card

How many: People in this group can access up to 10 free rapid tests, and up to five in one given month.

When: The scheme will begin on Monday 24 January.

South Australia

Where: The state plans to set up around a dozen mass hubs where people can collect free rapid tests. The first, a “super-site” collection point opened on Thursday 13 January at Adelaide’s southern parklands.

Other sites are expected to open in Port Augusta, Mount Gambier and Mount Barker, along with several more across urban and regional South Australia.

Eligibility: Only people who have been deemed a close contact will be able to access the tests, and they will need to register their status online.

"We will be asking people to go onto the SA Health website, register that they're a close contact using their mobile phone number, they'll then be sent a receipt, not a QR code as previously advised," South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said.

"You'll turn up at our site, you'll show that receipt [and] you'll be given your packs.

"We haven't been able to put appointments into the system at this stage … this is a massive logistical exercise."

How many: Close contacts can claim two free tests.

When: The hubs are opening over the coming days, with one in the south parklands already open and operating.

Victoria

Where: Similar to NSW, the Victorian free rapid test scheme is still in its infancy, however the government has begun delivering rapid tests to charities, community groups and testing clinics to be offered at no cost.

Last week, 60 testing clinics were given 400,000 free rapid tests for people to use at home, rather than take a PCR test. These tests are offered at staff members’ discretion.

The number of free tests distributed at testing clinics has increased from 1,900 at the beginning of the scheme to 91,000 on Sunday.

Eligibility: People who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 can access the free tests from the clinics by showing their IDs.

When: The tests are now available, with around 44 million more to come.

Australian Capital Territory

Where: Canberrans can access free rapid tests from the Kambah drive-through testing clinic. This clinic will not carry out PCR tests. It is open from 8:00am to 4:00pm, after closing on Sunday due to supply issues.

Eligibility: People who request a free rapid test from the Kambah clinic will need to complete a declaration upon arrival proving that they meet the requirements for the free tests.

How many: The Kambah drive through will give people two rapid test kits and instructions on how and when to take the tests.

When: The territory government rolled out the scheme on Friday 14 January.

NSW

Where: The NSW government’s free rapid test scheme is yet to be rolled out, however Premier Dominic Perrottet plans to have free kits distributed by pharmacies, service stations and testing clinics from the end of January.

The state government is currently taking expressions of interest from businesses that would like to be involved in distributing the free tests, with those businesses to be reimbursed.

Eligibility: The NSW government is focused primarily on supporting vulnerable communities and international arrivals.

How many: NSW has obtained 50 million tests, however the government has not yet confirmed how many free tests individual people can get.

When: The state plans to roll out the scheme from late January.

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