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EDITORIAL: It's absurd to blame the unemployed for the lack of RATs

Covid testing kit. Copyright: Ellywa/Wiki Commons.

It was disheartening this week to watch people turning on each other over the shocking lack of rapid antigen tests (RATs) available in Orange.

The Morrison government's failure regarding RATs is total.

It had opportunities to source hundreds of millions of RATs in the last months of 2021, but for reasons that are not entirely clear, didn't.

Was it ideological penny-pinching?

A complete lack of understanding of how rapidly Omicron would spread, and how easily PCR testing centres would be overwhelmed?

Or a planned strategy to let Covid loose over summer in the hope it would begin to peter out by the time the school year started?

Whatever the case, the bumbling and fumbling has left the people of Orange scrambling to get hold of RATs.

And it has left those with Covid symptoms driving and wandering from chemist to supermarket to chemist in the hope their arrival at a premises coincided with a truck delivering some boxes of RATs.

An hour too early, or too late, and the opportunity was gone. And that was at the retailers who had been fortunate enough to get their hands on RATs.

The Orange News Examiner spoke to three pharmacists in the city on Friday afternoon. All three had no stock and were still waiting on orders to arrive.

There was no real certainty over when they would arrive. Timeframes ranged from a bit loose to very loose.

The idea of making people who feel unwell wander about aimlessly in search of relief would be comical, if it weren't so embarrassing.

Social media forums are brimming with people asking and sometimes pleading for RATs.

Cars in line at the Wade Park testing clinic. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Some have trawled all the pharmacies and supermarkets, while others may be housebound or live out of town and can't afford repeated trips back and forth on the off chance some tests may have become available.

The government's decision to provide free RATs for concession card holders meant that the market was flooded this week with people seeking tests, some of whom had presumably needed the tests earlier, but had been unable to afford them.

On a fixed income, finding $20 or $40 or $100 or $200 for boxes of RATs for individuals or families may have been impossible without sacrificing necessities.

The government's concession card scheme is fair, and indeed should have been expanded, but for this to have occurred smoothly a government with some foresight was required.

On quarantine facilities, vaccination supplies and RATs, the federal government showed little or none, preferring instead to coast on the wave of reasonably good fortune that has blessed our island nation.

Last week a person on social media posted about how unfair it was that the unemployed in Orange were getting access to free RATs while they - with a job - were unable to access paid RATs.

The original complaint was more about access than kicking the unemployed, but it triggered off a debate and generated more than 100 comments.

Inevitably, disparaging remarks were made about people on unemployment support.

Convincing those in the economic middle to blame their woes on those below them on the financial ladder - the poor, the unemployed, the uneducated, disability pensioners, single mothers, new immigrants, First Nations people - has been the greatest con job of the last 40 years.

The anger over the unemployed getting access to a medical test during a health crisis, while some workers struggle to get the same access, is misdirected.

But it is illustrative of a modern world where those with little or nothing are often blamed, and those with everything get away without consequence.


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