First it was toilet paper.

Now it’s rapid antigen tests.

Demand for RATs is so high that even Australia’s largest supermarkets who wield formidable market buying power cannot stay ahead of the game.
A sign at a pharmacy in Victoria indicates it has sold out of rapid antigen tests.
A sign at a pharmacy in Victoria indicates it has sold out of rapid antigen tests. (Chris Hopkins)
“We’ve seen the demand for (RATs) in the last seven days just explode,” Coles chief operations officer Matthew Swindells said.

Speaking on Today, he described the RAT situation in the face of a spiking Omicron wave as “tight”.

Shelves where boxes of rapid antigen tests would usually sit have been stripped bare.

As quickly as the test kits come in, they go flying out.

Acutely aware of ongoing demand, even home and furnishings giant Harvey Norman have begun to sell RATs, though they too appear sold out.

“The lead time for manufacture and distribution is in the weeks, not the days,” Mr Swindells said.

“We’ve got a good pipeline of stock coming through,” the Coles boss said, “but the demand is extremely high.”

He urged shoppers to not panic buy and hoard RATs, alluding to miserable scenes of shoppers arguing and even brawling in the aisles over rolls of sought-after loo paper.

“We need to exit this COVID phase better than we entered it with the toilet paper panic buying.”

He said shoppers should be “courteous” and “kind” to each other.

A Woolworths spokesperson said tens of thousands of RATs were being sent from distribution centres to its stores each day.

“But they’re selling through very quickly with the recent surge in demand,” the spokesperson said.

“We have a much larger order of stock on the way from our suppliers and expect the availability of kits to improve for our customers later this week.”

The spokesperson said customer frustration was obvious, but the supermarket was doing all it could to try and meet demand.

Severe shortages have caused prices for each test to rise, with the ACCC now investigating claims of price gouging at some outlets.
Severe shortages have caused prices for each test to rise, with the ACCC now investigating claims of price gouging at some outlets. (SMH / Christian Stokes)

Meanwhile, the Transport Workers Union hit out at Scott Morrison’s government for not making RATs free, and claimed they had alerted the prime minister to a looming issue which has now gripped the country some months ago.

The Commonwealth’s unwillingness to make RATs free was making it even harder to put kits on shelves at supermarkets and pharmacies, Michael Kaine, national secretary of the TWU, said.

Mr Kaine claimed up to 50 per cent of truck drivers at some large logistics companies were currently absent because of rising COVID-19 cases and their inability to access RATs, two factors which were now clogging up supermarket supply chains.

“The TWU wrote to the Prime Minister in October urging the government to provide rapid tests to road transport workers to avoid unnecessary delays and keep drivers on the road,” Mr Kaine said.

“Instead, we have a completely predictable scenario where drivers are delivering rapid tests to be sold on the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies – but they, like most Australians, can’t access them themselves.”

A sign on display advises the public to the requirements of face masks.

How Australia faced the emergence of the Omicron variant

The Queensland government today revealed it had placed an order for 18 million RATs, adding that other states and territories were doing similar.

With demand so high, and showing no sign of abating, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating claims of RAT price gouging at some outlets.

Source: 9News

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