Demand spikes

Rapid antigen tests have been in short supply in Gippsland. file photograph

Michelle Slater

The Gippsland Region Public Health Unit is anticipating more rapid antigen tests kits will become available in the Latrobe Valley amid local supply shortages and empty shelves.

A GRPHU spokeswoman discouraged locals from panic buying, while acknowledging the situation had been “challenging”.

She said locals should only purchase a RAT if they had any COVID symptoms or were a household close contact.

“We really need people to remain calm. For the most part, COVID can be safely managed at home. If you have symptoms but can’t access a RAT, assume you have the virus,” the spokeswoman said.

“Isolate, Rest and Recover. If your symptoms worsen, call your GP or Nurse on Call and if they become severe, dial 000.”

It comes as retailers in the Valley had sold out of kits as soon as they hit the shelves with locals scrambling to get their hands on one with new state government testing requirements.

The Express contacted 15 chemists in the Valley last week, none of which had any stock on the shelves.

While no pharmacy would specifically comment on the record, many stated they had been fielding “100s of calls” each day from people attempting to source a test kit.

Other retailers told The Express they could not confirm when more deliveries would be made, with one describing the situation as “frustrating”.

Last week, the state government introduced RAT changes to ease the pressure off the community and PCR testing teams.

But Member for Morwell Russell Northe said the state government should provide official and timely information on how and where locals could access test kits.

An unofficial website Find a RAT was created to help “find those sneaky RATs” by postcode. However, only one outlet was listed for the Valley.

“People are being told to get tested, but they can’t get a test. The whole system is being overburdened. It’s been a calamity in many respects and people are fed up or distressed,” Mr Northe said.

“I also think there is a lot of confusion when people are supposed to get tested as the rules are changing every day.”

Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing assured that more testing would become available throughout January, but also called on the federal government to do its part.

Ms Shing said RATs would be distributed via public health teams, primary health care networks and through locals pharmacies and GPs as they kits became available.

“We are working to provide free tests throughout Victoria due to the lack of tests from the Commonwealth. We need the Commonwealth to step up,” Ms Shing said.