‘Extreme emergency or unforeseen events’: Australian government purchases $ 62 million worth of rapid antigen tests | Health

The Federal Department of Health on Monday purchased $ 62 million worth of rapid antigen testing using the “extreme emergency or unforeseen events” provisions of its procurement rules as it seeks to secure stocks to meet its commitment to supply. free rapid antigen testing for low-income Australians.

But the federal government’s massive buying spree could further exacerbate the shortage of free market tests.

Some suppliers inform their customers that they are unable to obtain supplies from their importers and distributors.

Rapid Proof, a Melbourne-based online retailer, told customers on Tuesday it could no longer provide Hough brand testing because the company “couldn’t meet the offer.”

Hough is one of five companies contracted by the federal government Monday to provide testing. Hough will provide $ 4.4 million in rapid antigenic testing to the Department of Health between Jan. 10 and Jan. 17, according to the memo.

Full contractual notes released Wednesday show that the federal government has used a provision in its procurement rules that allows it to avoid going out to tender.

Each note indicates that the government relied on the “Extreme emergency or unforeseen events” condition to avoid an open tendering process.

The tests were approved for general use in September, and the government has been telling the public for months that the new strategy is to live with the virus now that vaccination rates are high.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said that while the Prime Minister did not need to be ‘Nostradamus’ he should have listened to health experts and planned for the current Covid-19 outbreak.

“The national plan made it clear that once we opened there would be an increase in the number of infections and we had to make sure to plan for it,” he told the ABC.

He added: “Some $ 62 million of RAT that was purchased was due to urgent ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and was part of the tender. Well that was planned… we needed Scott Morrison to do his job but he just said, “We will all be together at Christmas, everything will be fine”, without setting up [the] necessary mechanisms.

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Executives will decide at the national cabinet on Thursday a date by which concession card holders will be able to access testing at pharmacies, as well as how the program will be approved.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions again called for rapid antigen testing to be free and readily available before the meeting.

CUTA Secretary Sally McManus said ensuring the safety of workers was the first priority, as leaders discuss adding more industries and workers to the list of close contacts exempted from quarantine requirements.

“The current dispute over this issue is the result of the Morrison government’s refusal to make RATs free,” she said. “Employers don’t want to pay, leaving the cost to individual workers.

“Rapid antigen testing is a critical part of keeping workers and the community safe, and it’s the only way businesses can stay open and operate. “

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce appeared to rule out any widespread plans to make testing free, as is the case in the UK.

“This idea that everyone gets them for free, I don’t know,” he told the Nine Network. “Money does not fall in the air, we take it from your wages, your wages, your businesses, to pay them. It goes on the credit card and you pay it off later.

Guardian Australia has contacted Rapid Proof and the Department of Health for comment.

with Australian Associated Press

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