22.8 C
Byron Shire
January 21, 2022

Changes to testing requirements and some RATs to be free

Latest News

Greens Mandy Nolan to hold community forum in support of nurses and paramedics

Locally and across the state nurses, and paramedics are struggling in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as they are being asked to do double shifts and manage effectively in health system that is struggling to cope. This has led to an increasing number of nurses and paramedics resigning.

Other News

The Lord and that ‘dance’

Two things happened during the last week that perfectly illustrate the federal government’s position on religious discrimination in Australia.

Vale Byron girl, Patricia Marcia Dailhou 

Patricia, better known as Pat or Patsy, was born in Byron Bay in 1933 and was the second eldest of nine, to Horace Cecil Vernon Freeman (better known as ‘Bluey’) and Dorothy Lulu Freeman (nee Daniels). 

1,051 new cases of COVID-19 for Northern Rivers

The Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) saw 1,051 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed to 8pm last night...

Renew Fest hosts May vigil for grief

Renew Fest will host a weekend-long Vigil For Grief in May 2022, and will return with the festival itself in 2023.

Empty shelves

The local supermarket has no toilet paper, rice and little pet food. This is not merely a local event,...

Spice Palace: Fresh, local and made from scratch

Rob Cullinan and Duska Jefed are the couple behind Spice Palace. They lovingly make dips, tapenade, dukkah, harissa, chilli...

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday before meeting with the National Cabinet. Photo YouTube.

The National Cabinet met yesterday to discuss the government’s response to COVID-19 and the Omicron variant – and the biggest issue making news at the moment: COVID-19 testing and the lack thereof, and new approaches to test, trace isolate and quarantine including the use of rapid antigen tests (RATs) and the vaccine rollout and booster programme.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly provided an update on the spread of the Omicron variant. Omicron case numbers continue to increase in Australia and globally. ‘Omicron continues to show greater infectivity than the Delta variant, but with less severity.’

Mr Morrison said that since the beginning of the pandemic there have been 612,106 confirmed cases in Australia. ‘Sadly, 2,289 people have died. More than 56 million tests have been undertaken, with 1,643,841 million tests reported in the past seven days.

Global cases and deaths

‘Globally there have been over 294.9 million cases and over 5.4 million deaths, with 2.6 million new cases and 7,169 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in many countries around the world.’

Mr Morrison said the National Cabinet received a detailed update on Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program from Lieutenant General John Frewen, Coordinator General of Operation COVID Shield.

‘Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues to expand. To date, 43 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia, including 212,497 in the previous 24 hours.

‘In the previous 7 days, more than 754,500 vaccines have been administered in Australia. More than 94.5 per cent of the Australian population aged 16 years and over have now had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including 98.7 per cent of Australians aged 50 years of age and over and more than 99 per cent of Australians aged 70 years of age and over.

More than 91.6 per cent of Australians aged 16 years fully vaccinated

‘More than 91.6 per cent of Australians aged 16 years and over are now fully vaccinated including more than 96.8 per cent of Australians aged 50 years of age and over and more than 99 per cent of Australians aged 70 years of age and over.

Over 2.7 million booster doses have been administered. Australia has sufficient supplies of boosters, with nearly 18 million mRNA vaccines in stock in Australia. Yesterday, over 176,000 boosters were administered across Australia. Following the widening of eligibility for boosters on 4 January to those who had their second dose at least four months earlier, over 33.8 per cent of those eligible for boosters have had a booster and 28.6 per cent of Australians aged 70 years of age and over have had a booster in the last 8 weeks since the booster program commenced.

National Cabinet will meet again on Thursday 13 January 2022.

Rapid Antigen Tests

In a turn around d from recent comments starting that people would have to pay for their own RATs, National Cabinet noted that COVID-19 tests are free and available at state testing clinics for people who have symptoms or are a close contact.

National Cabinet agreed that up to 10 Rapid Antigen Tests over three months (a maximum of fiveMorrison in a month) will be made available free through pharmacies to people holding the following cards:

  • Pension Concession Card
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange Card
  • Health Care Card
  • Low Income Health Card

Morrison said these free tests will become available in the next two weeks. ‘However, anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and close contacts should attend a state clinic for free testing and not go to a pharmacy to receive a free test. Costs for providing these tests will be shared 50:50 between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories consistent with COVID shared funding agreements.’

National Cabinet noted the Commonwealth will provide 10 million RATs to states and territories (a combination of predominantly Point of Care Tests and self tests) to assist with testing and laboratory capacity. National Cabinet agreed to fund these in line with the existing National Partnership Agreement on the COVID-19 Response.

National Cabinet received a briefing from Joe Buffone, Director-General of Emergency Management Australia, on behalf of the National Coordination Mechanism (NCM). Supply chain issues continue to be one of the main disruptors of broad access to RATs. National Cabinet noted that the Commonwealth is working through the NCM to finalise anti-hoarding measures with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and other major retailers that stock RATs to limit the number of RATs available for sale to each individual.

National Cabinet noted the Commonwealth will prohibit price gouging of and the non-commercial export of RATs, similar to actions taken earlier in the pandemic relating to essential goods such as masks, other PPE and hand sanitiser. As was the case previously, price gouging will be defined as supplying or offering to supply essential goods at a price that is more than 120% of the initial purchase price (a 20% markup) and penalties for not complying with this direction will range up to five years imprisonment or $66,000.

Changes to testing requirements

National Cabinet agreed changes to testing requirements for all states except for Western Australia including:

  • Removing the requirement for truck drivers to have rolling seven days tests.
  • Testing will not be required before patients present to hospital.
  • Confirmation PCR test will not be required after a positive RAT. Individual states and territories will provide further information on how a positive RAT will be recorded. Anyone who tests positive is encouraged to contact their GP for support as required.
  • Testing before interstate travel will no longer be required except for Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia, with Queensland and Tasmania to review these requirements in the coming weeks. State testing clinics will not be able to be used for interstate travel purposes.
  • A second post arrival test for international travelers will not be required except for Queensland, who will review this requirement when they reach 90 per cent double vaccination rate.

Workplace Health and Safety

National Cabinet noted the impact on business of current state workplace Health and Safety laws  that could imply requiring employees to return a negative RAT test in order to present to work. National Cabinet agreed the Commonwealth Attorney General will convene a meeting of relevant ministers from all jurisdictions to consider workplace health and safety requirements with a view to removing any potential obligation to impose testing requirements in workplaces on employees

National Return to School Framework

National Cabinet tasked the First Secretaries Group (FSG) led by Mr Phil Gaetjens, Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to develop a national framework to enable students to return to school on day one of term one, and for schools to stay open with consistent requirements across all jurisdictions to be in place prior to the first day of the first term of school. The FSG will report back to National Cabinet at the next meeting.


Recent stories, information and updates regarding COVID-19

January 21 National Cabinet on Omicron, RATs, vax and treatments

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has issued a media release about yesterday's meeting of the National Cabinet.


Biz step up to feed frontline staff

Local paramedics will be able to get free coffee and snacks at selected local cafes, as part of a major community effort to support frontline health workers during the ongoing and increasing COVID-19 outbreak.


Hospitals under strain

With ever increasing pressure on health services across the nation and locally, how are health staff coping – and are there enough ICU beds and ventilators to cope with the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases?


1,114 cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Rivers in last 24...

The Northern NSW Local Health District say that to 8pm yesterday, January 17, there were confirmed 1,114 new PCR cases of COVID-19.


The Greens launch NurseKeeper for nurses and paramedics

The Greens have written to the Premier to ask him to immediately introduce ‘NurseKeeper’ to urgently introduce pandemic pay and bonuses for nurses and paramedics. 


Lung specialist ‘we’re doing the best we can’ and Hazzard lays...

At this morning's COVID-19 update press conference, Concord and Nepean Hospitals lung specialist Dr Lucy Morgan gave an update on COVID-19. Dr Morgan says she works as part of a team of people looking after patients with COVID.


Northern NSW Local Health District COVID update for January 14

The Northern NSW Local Health District reports that to 8pm last night, January 13, there were 905 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the District – this figure does not include positive rapid antigen tests (RAT) for the reporting period.


Record breaking day of COVID deaths as Hillsong sings and dances...

As New South Wales breaks another COVID record with 29 lives lost in a single day, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet spoke to the media this morning with an update on the pandemic.


The PM’s report from the National Cabinet meeting yesterday

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has released a media statement about the meeting yesterday of the National Cabinet.


What do you do next if you test positive to COVID?

With more than a third of callers to the National Coronavirus Helpline asking about isolation, healthdirect has launched a guide to help those who are COVID-19 positive know what they should do while isolating at home and when to seek medical help.


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

NSW COVID update on COVID deaths – vax stats and comorbidities

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet again opened his COVID update with condolences to families who have lost loved ones, and thanks to the  ‘inspirational work of our health workers'.

January 21 National Cabinet on Omicron, RATs, vax and treatments

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has issued a media release about yesterday's meeting of the National Cabinet.

Reform needed to deliver electric trucks in Australia

With the aim of getting more electric-powered trucks on Australian roads, the Electric Vehicle Council and the Australian Trucking Association have collaborated to develop the policies necessary to drive Australian trucking into an electric future.

Biz step up to feed frontline staff

Local paramedics will be able to get free coffee and snacks at selected local cafes, as part of a major community effort to support frontline health workers during the ongoing and increasing COVID-19 outbreak.