Industry News

RAT replaces PCR test for interstate drivers as food shortage bites

Changes long sought after to testing requirements for truck drivers have been announced by National Cabinet.

Interstate drivers, who have borne the brunt of enforceable COVID safety protocols, will no longer be required to take invasive PCR tests on rolling seven day cycles.

According to National Cabinet, a PCR test for all other states, other than Western Australia, will no longer be required after a positive rapid antigen test (RAT).

Individual states and territories will provide further information on how a positive RAT will be recorded.

The PCR test requirement will remain in Western Australia where it will undergo review in the coming weeks.

Queensland today announced it had removed the requirement for freight workers and truck drivers to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test to enter the state.

The Queensland Government said it will continue to adjust the protocols to reflect the health situation with a new F border pass implemented for freight workers and truck drivers that will still need to be completed to cross the border.

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 said it would fund these in line with the existing National Partnership Agreement on the COVID-19 Response.

State testing clinics, under the current guidelines, will not be able to be used for interstate travel purposes.

Surges in driver absences following high rates of illness and resignations have depleted transport workforces in the aftermath of Christmas with many supermarkets now struggling to receive stock on time.

Coles has introduced new temporary purchasing limits on certain grocery items across all its supermarkets and online stores.

Current food shortages including meat products are expected to last through January.

Woolworths, for the moment, said it would not be imposing limits on product purchases.

National Cabinet has received a briefing from Joe Buffone, Director-General of Emergency Management Australia, on behalf of the National Coordination Mechanism (NCM).

According to the briefing supply chain issues continued 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 per cent of the initial purchase price (a 20 per cent markup) and penalties for not complying with this direction will range up to five years imprisonment or $66,000.

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