Almost 400,000 free rapid antigen test (RAT) kits have been dispatched across Western Australia by the state government in the past month, but community leaders say they are concerned some people in the regions will miss out.
- About 60 per cent of free RAT orders have been dispatched in WA
- There are concerns people without a fixed address may be disadvantaged by the system
- People in regional areas are missing out on opportunities for free tests, say social welfare groups
Premier Mark McGowan announced on February 27 that every WA household would receive free RATs to better prepare the community for COVID-19.
Households could claim five free tests initially, but the number was later increased to 15.
People could either register online or call the COVID hotline if they had a valid home address that had not already been used to claim the kits.
In the first 48 hours, the state recorded 420,000 registrations.
In total, about 688,000 households have signed up, including more than 656,000 orders registered for delivery.
To date, about 396,000 of the delivery orders have been dispatched state-wide (approximately 60 per cent).
Chris Gabelish, operations manager at Geraldton-based Regional Alliance West, said it was a great initiative but the requirement to provide a home address when registering was preventing people who were homeless from applying.
“Within Geraldton, we have got a lot of people who do not actually have their own house,” he said.
“They may be homeless, couch surfing, living in cars, living in caravan parks … and cannot use an address to get their hands on a RAT.
‘Commonsense’ approach needed
Regional residents have shared on social media the issues they have faced when applying.
While some residents received their order within a few days, others who applied on the day of the announcement are still waiting.
But some people have not been able to place an order, as their address had already been used.
“I live at a caravan park and the address was already taken,” one woman said.
“I tried to provide a different address but it would not accept it.”
Another woman, who lives in a lifestyle village in the Midwest, said she was also unable to apply as her address had already been registered.
In a statement, a state government spokesperson said all orders had been processed where there were multiple registrations at a single address and the location had been identified, such as a caravan park or university.
“However, anyone who receives a message to say the address is already registered should call 13 COVID.”
But Mr Gabelish said the registration process should be changed.
“The government needs to have a very commonsense approach to it,” he said.
“I think if they get the names of the people when they’re issuing the RATs, put them in a register, then that’s a much more efficient way of doing it.”
The state said RAT kits had been supplied to a number of community service organisations that could be supplied to clients experiencing homelessness.
Pop-up pick-up points
About 180,000 RATs will be made available from tomorrow at pop-up sites in Albany, Broome, Bunbury, Geraldton, Karratha, and Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
People will not have to register before collecting the kits.
Distribution hubs for service providers have also been set up in major regional cities and towns, as well as Carnarvon, Port Hedland, Derby, Halls Creek, Kununurra, and Esperance.
Nationals MP Martin Aldridge said he hoped the state would hand out more free kits in the regions.
“The impact not having RATs available can have on our PCR testing system would overwhelm it,” he said.
“In Perth, they are available at train stations, cinemas, shopping centres and major events, but in regional towns, often we will have the same venues and events.
“We have a really good community resource centre network. Maybe it’s worth engaging with them to see how they might be able to help.”
Mr Aldridge said he was also aware of a number of regional residents who had not yet received their free tests, despite signing up in the first few days of the program.
A state government spokesperson said in a statement that households were told to allow up to 15 business days for delivery.
“Due to the popularity and scale of the program, the order in which deliveries have been dispatched is determined by the timing of the registration, as well as postal logistics,” the statement read.
“If a household has not received their delivery, they are encouraged to contact 13 COVID.”