More than six million concession card holders across the country now have access to free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests (RATs) at participating pharmacies.
The program kicked off on Monday for eligible card holders who can collect up to 10 free RATs from pharmacies over a three-month period.
Amid , here's what you need to know about getting the tests.
Who is eligible?
From 24 January, those who hold the following Commonwealth concession cards are eligible for the free RATs: Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Veteran Gold, White or Orange Card, Health Care Card, Low Income Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card.
How many RATs can I access?
Those who are eligible can access up to 10 RATs over a three-month period (with a maximum of five in one month) through community pharmacies.
How do I get the free tests?
Eligible card holders will need to attend a participating community pharmacy in person and present their Commonwealth concession card.
They'll need to provide consent to the pharmacy to record their card details. The pharmacy will also confirm their details, including whether they've already received any RATs.
The pharmacy will provide a minimum of two RATs for each eligible individual. Subject to availability, they can ask for up to the monthly limit per eligible individual at any one time.
National Cabinet has agreed to initially reimburse pharmacists $10 plus GST per test, with an extra administration and handling fee of $4.30 per transaction. Pharmacies are responsible for sourcing supply for the program as they do for non-subsidised RATs, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said following the 13 January meeting.
Signage notifying customers that rapid antigen tests (RATs) are sold out is seen on the entrance to a chemist in Sydney, Tuesday, 11 January, 2022. Source: AAP
Is there enough supply?
Questions about supply have clouded the start of the scheme, with the government defending its rollout and pharmacists warning shortages will be an issue.
As it kicked off on Monday, Pharmacy Guild of Australia president Trent Twomey said supply shortages of the tests meant the scheme would be significantly impacted.
"We don't have enough today," he told the Nine Network.
"There are 6,000 community pharmacies in Australia and 804 pharmacies went live this morning. The majority will simply not be going live."
Mr Twomey said there are 13 million tests arriving in the next week and 22 million in the first three weeks of February just for pharmacies.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday that all the participating pharmacies are "putting aside tests".
"They're reserving spaces, that's not to say that every pharmacy on day one is participating. It's a phased program, and importantly, it's a supplementary program," he said.
Mr Hunt said hoarding of RATs is contributing to supply issues across the country, but indicated there would be enough stock for pharmacists moving forward.
The government says RATs will increasingly be available and asks eligible individuals to phone the pharmacy ahead of their visit to make sure new supplies have arrived.
Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who is a close contact of someone who has tested positive should not attend a pharmacy, but instead go directly to a state testing clinic.