Free COVID RAT program to finish at end of month

Doctors and pharmacists are urging the federal government to extend a program allowing older and vulnerable Australians to access free COVID rapid antigen tests.

A government program granting free RATs to concession card holders will be wound up on 31 July.

Under the current rules, people who hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card, Pensioner Concession Card, Low Income Health Care Card or a Department of Veteran’s Affairs Gold, White or Orange Card can get up to 10 RATs every three months, free of charge.

But Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has ruled out keeping the program in place, despite a surge in COVID cases countrywide.

Read: Immunity for COVID cases could be slashed to 28 days

Mr Albanese says the government can’t afford to keep supplying free RATs indefinitely and encouraged those eligible to stock up on the tests before they disappear.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Albanese said the decision to end the program was made by the previous government and that his hands were tied.

“I’d encourage concession cardholders to go and get their 10 free rapid antigen tests that they’re eligible for by the end of the month – there’s a lot of time to go and do that,” he said.

“To be clear, my government has not made this decision. This is a decision that was inherited from the former government.

Read: New COVID jab strategy for over-50s

“We inherited a range of positions from the former government, and we also inherited a trillion dollars of debt.”

But the excuse isn’t cutting it with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which says the decision to end the program is “disappointing and confusing at a time when testing and identifying for COVID-19 is essential to help manage the current wave of infections”.

“The government has been proactive in increasing the eligibility for booster shots as well as making antiviral medicines more accessible,” says Nick Panayiaris, acting national president of the guild.

“However, to end the concessional RATs scheme seems at odds with everything else being done at the moment.

Read: Government moots COVID treatment text messaging system

“If the scheme is removed it will add pressure to government testing hubs and also potentially add to delays in accessing antivirals – delays that could see patients unable to get these medications within the required five days of the first symptoms appearing.”

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) echoed these concerns, saying the decision will deter many people on lower incomes from getting tested at all.

“If we cease to provide this program vulnerable people who would otherwise have been able to access free rapid antigen tests will no longer be able to do so,” says Dr Fei Sim, PSA president.

“That really is sending the wrong message to the public about the importance of testing.”

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. Wow, here we go – quote from Albanese – ” To be clear, my Government did not make the decision ” One of many ” It wasn’t our fault ” – Australia, you are in for a very bumpy, torrid ride.

- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -