Australians Call for Free Rapid Antigen Tests: Survey

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at
January 17, 2022Updated: January 17, 2022

More Australians believe the government should provide free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests (RAT), according to a recent survey by the Australia Institute, a public policy think tank based in Canberra.

The survey, which polled a representative sample of 1,000 Australians between Jan.11 and 14, found that 72 percent of respondents believed RATs should be distributed free of charge, while 16 percent believe that retailers should continue to sell the product.

Australian states and territories have transitioned formal testing requirements away from the more costly PCR to RAT. However, the transition has been plagued with product shortages caused by the sudden spike in demand. This in turn, has led to steeper RAT prices.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said despite wholesale costs between $3.95 and $11.45 per test, retail prices of $20 to $30 have been common, with some convenience stores, service stations, and small supermarkets charging over $70.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims said his organisation had even received reports of tests costing up to $500 for a pack of two online.

“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,” he said in a press release.

Meanwhile, in response to the survey findings, Deputy Director of the Australian Institute Ebony Bennet, said was clear the majority of Australians feel the government had a responsibility to make RATs free.

“Australians have tried to do the right thing, but the Morrison government’s failure to secure adequate supplies of affordable rapid antigen tests left many Australians in desperate situations over the summer. The public knows this is not a problem that can be solved by individual Australians,” she said.

In a media release on Jan.5, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) echoed the same sentiment, saying the federal government should increase RAT supplies and ensure they are available free of charge to everyone, not only select groups.

“The RATs are a health product, not a typical consumer good, and the overwhelming demand for them has inflated their price beyond what many people can afford,” it stated, noting that targeted subsidies would be too difficult to implement.

“We need to harness the goodwill in the community to use RAT kits and free access for everybody,” Dr. Omar Korshid, president of the AMA said.

The Epoch Times reached out to the Australian federal minister for health for comment, but did not received a response at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, the Australian Institute survey also found 53 percent of respondents felt governments in general had failed to plan well over the last two years, which has led to pressure on the public health system, supply chain issues, and staff shortages—areas that fall under the purview of both state and federal authorities.

“Empty supermarket shelves and businesses empty of staff and customers show the reality is that there can be no healthy economy without healthy people,” Bennet said.

“Australians have seen first-hand that well-designed public health measures and government regulations work hand in hand.”