Barnaby Joyce doubles down on RAT test hoarding claim amid supply shortage
Barnaby Joyce has doubled down on his claim Australians are hoarding rapid tests after he was forced to apologise for a trainwreck interview.
Barnaby Joyce has doubled down on his claim that people are “hoarding” rapid antigen tests (RATs) as he seeks to downplay the federal government’s responsibility for the nationwide shortage.
The Deputy Prime Minister on Sunday claimed it was just a “matter of fact” that people were buying more tests than they needed and that the stockpiling was contributing to supply issues.
“There are certainly other big issues at play, but if you deny that RATs are being hoarded at all, to deny it would be, I’d have to lie. Because people are, businesses are,” he told Sky News.
“And that’s just like, people hoard toilet paper and hoard other things. I don’t know why they do that. But are you going to say that doesn’t happen as well? Of course it does.”
State and territory leaders – along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison – have shifted away from using “gold standard” PCR testing to rapid antigen tests, which are quicker and can be done at home.
But the tests have proved extremely hard to come by, with kits being sold at exorbitant prices at retailers across the country.
Mr Joyce first made the hoarding accusation during a trainwreck interview with the ABC earlier in the week in which he also claimed Australians weren’t dying from Covid.
His hoarding claim was met with a fierce backlash from corporate Australia, which accused him of deflecting from the government’s supply woes.
Mr Joyce was asked on Sunday if he understood why people were frustrated with what he had said about RATs.
“Well, if they frustrated, I apologise for that,” he said.
“But the issue is if they say they’re frustrated, because people are holding them, well, that’s a problem you have to take up with the people hoarding them.”
More than six million concession card holders across the country have access to 10 free RATs each month at participating pharmacies under a Morrison government scheme.
Pharmacists continue to report supply issues, but Mr Joyce said some 400,000 free tests had been distributed since the program launched last Monday.
Mr Joyce said the Morrison government was bringing in “millions of RATs now”, with 33 million kits due to arrive in February.
“So you manage these things as you go along. You find these RATs. But finding them, obviously they’re not made in Australia, they’re made around the world,” he said.
“And our problems are not much different to any other country’s problems. We’re all desperately trying to locate and find these tests.”
Anthony Albanese on Sunday said all Australians should get a certain number of free rapid tests that would be covered by Medicare.
“There is no supply. Everywhere I‘ve been around this entire country, there has been an issue with a failure of supply and that is creating major issues,” the Opposition Leader told the ABC.
“You have aged care facilities shut around the country because there aren’t enough rapid antigen tests available for the staff, and that is having enormous consequences.”