ESSENTIAL workers in Horsham may face difficulties attending work in the coming weeks, as the city faces a shortage of rapid antigen test kits.
From Wednesday, workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport and freight will join food production workers in being exempt from close contact isolation requirements in order to go to work, provided they can return a negative RAT for five days and before work each day.
Despite several industries reporting enough stock to allow for essential workers to return, many people have still been able to access the testing kits at pharmacies and stores across the state.
Horsham Priceline pharmacist Cobie McQueen said the pharmacy had sold out of rapid antigen tests on Tuesday and was unsure when a new supply of the tests would come.
"The supply is very patchy at the moment. We have thousands on backorder but we just can't seem to get them in," she said.
"Our wholesaler is having difficulties getting them from their suppliers, so it is a whole supply chain issue, unfortunately."
Ms McQueen said the testing kits had been in high demand.
"It feels like every second phone call is about RATs at the moment," she said.
"It is unfortunately at the moment very luck of the draw. If you are symptomatic and do not have access to a rapid antigen test, you can still get access to a PCR test as well."
TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist Stuart Hill said his pharmacy was also facing a test shortage and expected new supply in the next two weeks.
"The tests have started to arrive in Australia is our understanding, but they have not started to be distributed into retail on a widespread basis," he said.
"We believe that will start to happen in late-January, early February. We will have to see what arrives, we do not know if that is enough to give people what they want straight away. People have to be a little bit patient it seems."
Mr Hill said plans were being made to distribute rapid antigen tests to concession card holders at a subsidised cost, the details of which were still being finalised.
"There will be more announcements as it gets closer about how people should go about that," he said.
"It won't just be coming in and grabbing them. People will have to provide some information and we will have to record that information. From what we understand it won't be like buying an ice cream, there will be some time to process the transaction."
This comes as the Victorian Government announced a delivery of three million rapid antigen tests from its bulk order of 44 million.
Workers in sensitive settings and essential workforces will be prioritised to receive the tests as part of the initial rollout, which will begin on Wednesday.
Victorians who may have pre-existing conditions that make them susceptible to severe illness will also be prioritised in the rollout.
In addition, more than 60 grassroots community and multifaith organisations are also distributing free RATs to many Victorians in need as part of their existing care and support programs.
Lowan member Emma Kealy criticised the Victorian government for what she perceived to be a lack of action on rapid antigen tests, leading to the initial shortage.
"Mr Foley wants to play the blame game, but his comments are on the record for all to see - he completely ruled out and refused to order them and now he is blaming the shortage on the Federal Government," she said.
"So it is a bit rich for Mr Foley, who refused to adopt the use of these tests and held off ordering RATs until Christmas Eve, to blame the shortage on the Federal Government.
"He could have a shed full of them in Victoria right now if he had ordered them earlier."
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