Australia to Ease COVID Testing Rules as Cases Surge

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would make urgent changes to COVID-19 testing rules in a bid to ease pressure on test sites as infections surge on Wednesday.

“We just can’t have everybody just being taken out of circulation because they just happen to be at a particular place at a particular time,” Morrison said.

Morrison’s plan would prioritize clinically urgent cases to cut long lines at test sites and shorten waiting time for lab results. 

The proposed rules would rely more on rapid antigen tests, redefine close contacts of confirmed cases to those who live in the same household, and only require PCR tests for people with symptoms, but close contacts would still have to isolate for seven days.

Morrison said the government would use A$375 million ($271 million) to buy millions of additional rapid antigen test kits.

Morrison has also ruled out lockdowns, despite the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, and urged people to focus on the number of patients admitted to hospitals instead.

Australia’s COVID-19 numbers have remained among the lowest worldwide, with about 341,500 cases and 2,210 deaths, even with the Omicron and Delta waves.

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