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Victoria records 2738 new COVID-19 cases, four deaths


“Workplaces need to have every tool available to them to avoid snap closures and reduce the risk to their employees, their customers and the community,” he said.

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“Introducing free and accessible rapid testing to businesses will provide an additional line of defence to give businesses the certainty and confidence they desperately need and ensures staff and customers are safe in the workplace.”

Meanwhile, pharmacists have warned Australians’ interstate travel plans could be dealt a fresh blow by a shortage of rapid antigen tests, and urged states and territories to urgently secure supplies and foot the bill for the kits amid unprecedented demand.

Pharmacy Guild president Professor Trent Twomey said a week ago, pharmacies around the country had ample supply of the self-testing kits, but demand exploded before Christmas. As more states drop PCR testing requirements for travel, demand will continue to grow.

“Right now we’re down to dozens and we might have none today,” Professor Twomey said on Monday. “I cannot guarantee that we will be able to meet the demand, which means I cannot guarantee that people will be able to travel.”

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Pharmacies were under the most pressure in areas with outbreaks, including Greater Sydney and Melbourne, he said.

Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter said the positivity rate from PCR testing, which stood at 6.5 per cent in NSW, showed people were getting tested because they genuinely needed to. NSW reported 6062 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.

“There aren’t more people getting unnecessary tests than when the positivity rate was, you know, 1 per cent,” she said.

“Undoubtedly, the testing centres are being overwhelmed, but it’s not because people are using the service different than they did before – it’s because there’s just much more Omicron and so many contacts.”

Professor Baxter said she thought Australia would have to move towards a more English system whereby if people had COVID-19 symptoms or lived with a person who had the virus, they received a PCR test.

“But if you’re a close contact that’s not in the household … then you do rapid antigen tests.”

Professor Baxter said authorities would have to move towards that kind of system to manage the need for COVID-19 tests, although it was hard to make radical systemic changes, particularly through the holiday season.

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