The Queensland government has secured 18 million rapid antigen tests (RATs) to be provided for free at public testing sites to people classified as close contacts.
This includes 12 million at-home tests and almost 6 million point of care tests.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the supply would support new national protocols for close contacts and front-line workforces.
“Global demand for rapid antigen test kits is significant,” Palaszczuk said on Monday.
“Securing an extra 12 million at-home tests for Queensland will help us meet demand as we transition to the new nationally agreed isolation and testing requirements for close contacts. The additional supplies will arrive over coming weeks.”
There will be a gradual shift to replace PCR testing with RATs for close contacts as supplies increase in line with the agreement on Dec. 30 at National Cabinet on a new definition for close contact.
Close contacts will be required to have an immediate rapid antigen test and isolate for seven days, with an additional test on day 6.
“We know the transition to RAT tests for close contacts will reduce some of the pressure we have seen at testing clinics in recent weeks, ensuring those with symptoms can be tested sooner,” the premier said.
Due to supply shortages, the rapid antigen tests will arrive in smaller numbers over the coming week, with a large volume expected in late January.
Palaszczuk said the additional 12 million RAT kits were in addition to Queensland Health’s stockpile of almost 6 million point of care tests for use within the hospital system.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the best advice for Queenslanders remains to get vaccinated.
“We continue to see a rapid rise in cases across the state, but we know that the best protection against severe disease and hospitalisation is to get vaccinated and have your booster when you are able to,” D’Ath said.
“Walk in vaccination centres are continuing to operate right across the state, and Queensland children aged 5 to 11 years can access the vaccine from 10 January.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that 10 million additional RAT kits would be provided to states and territories.
For concession card holders, up to 10 RAT kits over three months, with a maximum of five tests in a month, will be free through pharmacies.
As of Jan. 6, Queensland has recorded 10,332 new COVID-19 cases and one death, setting the new high for the state’s daily cases.