Australian PM Dismisses Free COVID-19 Tests Amidst Pressure

By Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang is a health writer for The Epoch Times, based in New York. She mainly covers stories on COVID-19 and the healthcare system and has a bachelors in biomedicine from The University of Melbourne. Contact her at
January 5, 2022Updated: January 5, 2022

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has asserted the government will not be making rapid antigen tests free, despite growing calls from the Labor government to make them available for everyone.

Following widespread shortages of the rapid tests and large queues at PCR testing clinics across the country, the prime minister said the tests wouldn’t be rolled out freely.

“The suggestion that tests are not free is untrue. The tests are free if you require one and are required to have one because you are a close contact or you’re symptomatic,” Morrison told reporters on Wednesday.

“The tests are free if you require one and are required to have one because you’re a close contact or you’re symptomatic.”

Morrison said 160 million rapid tests would soon be arriving in Australia. He stated that the Omicron variant had caused a significant disruption in Australia and that the short-term challenge at hand is more so the supply than making everything free.

“Making everything free is not a silver bullet. There are no silver bullets here. You’ve just got to work the problem, work it together and push through.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s national cabinet meeting, the prime minister is expected to outline a plan to subsidise the cost of rapid tests for concession cardholders and pensioners.

The meeting will also discuss whether to change the criteria for who is included in hospitalisation figures after it was revealed earlier this week that most COVID-19 hospital patients are actually admitted for other health reasons.

However, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has pressed the government to make the tests free for everyone.

“It’s very clear the simplest way to do it is to make tests free and make them available,” Albanese told reporters in Sydney.

“People are crying out for action; the economic consequences of this government’s failure to put in place a proper system are there for all to see.”

Albanese had previously called for the rapid tests to be made more affordable and criticised the Prime Minister for not having enough supplies but has now changed to wanting tests to be free.

“We’ve considered the options, and the clear and simplest, most cost-efficient way is to make tests available,” he said.

Rapid tests have been made free in countries such as New Zealand, UK and Singapore.

However, Morrison reasoned that the UK  was “having very significant problems in the supply of those tests.”

“Singapore is a much smaller country than Australia, as is New Zealand. More broadly across the world, that is not what all the countries are doing.”

More than 64,000 COVID cases were reported nationally on Wednesday, the highest daily number of cases since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, the shortage of rapid antigen tests has led to complaints of price gouging.

The consumer watchdog, ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), announced on Tuesday that it will crackdown on price-gouging of rapid antigen test kits amid a nationwide shortage.