The impact of Covid-19 on supply chains has begun to disrupt goods needed for PCR testing, forcing the closure of clinics in one jurisdiction.
The highly-contagious Omicron variant has caused widespread staff shortages and a “crisis” in transport and other supply chain businesses, leading to shortages at supermarkets, retailers and other key industries.
The supply chain issues are so severe that the Australian Capital Territory on Wednesday announced it was closing three testing clinics – a significant chunk of its testing capacity – until Monday.
The government said the closures were due to “unavoidable supply issues” experienced by Capital Pathology, part of the Sonic Healthcare pathology giant.
The testing supplies ordered by Capital Pathology were “unable to be delivered to the ACT within the expected timeframe due to the impacts of Covid-19 on the supply chain”.
“The ACT, like all jurisdictions, is working hard to manage its testing supplies, including reagents and consumables, which are in high demand across the country,” a spokesperson for ACT Health said.
“The high demand for these items has been exacerbated by supply chain issues that have also been affecting other industries.”
Unlike rapid tests, Australia is not currently experiencing a shortage in supplies of PCR consumables themselves.
NSW, Victoria, and Queensland all confirmed that, despite huge demand, they have adequate stocks of PCR testing equipment.
But NSW Health said the demand on PCR testing in the state was “enormous” and the situation was “evolving”.
The high number of positive PCR tests means laboratories need to change to a more time-consuming approach to confirm each sample, a spokesperson said.
Queensland Health said it had sufficient stock of test kits “to maintain current capacity”. It said it had created a strategic reserve and sourced testing instruments from a number of vendors to lessen the risk of supply shortages.
“Like all jurisdictions across Australia, Queensland’s public and private testing network has been placed under significant pressure by the surge in Omicron cases and the subsequent national shortage in some PCR testing supplies,” a spokesperson said.
The Morrison government has attempted to relieve pressure on supply chains by scrapping isolation requirements for close contacts of Covid cases employed in critical supply chains.
Those rules were extended from the food supply sector to other industries on Thursday, including to all transport, freight and logistics workers.
Workers who are a close contact of a positive Covid case will no longer have to isolate if they return a negative rapid antigen test result.
“The more you try to protect your hospital system, the more people you are taking out of work, which disrupts supply chains,” Morrison said. “This is a very delicate balance that needs to be constantly recalibrated.”
But Labor criticised the changes, saying they will mean nothing without greater supply of rapid tests.
“These changes to isolation arrangements won’t amount to a hill of beans if Scott Morrison doesn’t fix the mess he has created around rapid tests,” the shadow health minister, Mark Butler, said.
“That is clear. Business, trade unions, have made that clear. All of these changes will end up being academic if workers and businesses can’t get access to rapid tests and can’t get that access free of charge.”
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[ ALL Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. Read More ]