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Victorians to get free rapid antigen tests

Victorians to get free rapid antigen tests
Photo: Victorians to get free rapid antigen tests
Victorians will get access to 34 million free rapid antigen tests by the end of January.

On the same day the state posted its highest COVID-19 daily infection tally, with 3767 new cases, the state government announced it will ramp up access to at-home tests.

"Rapid antigen testing is the way that Victorians can have confidence as they go about living with COVID and making sure that they do their bit to keep the pressure off our hard working hospitals," Health Minister Martin Foley said on Wednesday.

"We would much prefer to have a national approach to what is a national, indeed an international, supply issue, but failing that as per usual, the states have had to step up over the course of this pandemic and fill the gap left."

The first of the deliveries will arrive this week, with more arriving in the weeks soon after, however the distribution of the tests is still being worked out.
The issue of rapid antigen tests will be discussed at national cabinet on Thursday, which Premier Daniel Andrews who is currently on leave will attend.

Victoria is already handing out free rapid tests in some circumstances, including to students and staff exposed at schools.

On Wednesday Victoria saw a massive jump in COVID-19 infections with 3767 new cases and five deaths, taking total active cases to 19,994.

The state had 2738 new cases and four deaths reported on Tuesday.

Mr Foley acknowledged the new figure was a confronting number to see, but he said it was predicted in modelling.

He encouraged people to continue to wear masks, socially distance and take as many precautions as they can.

There were 75,132 tests processed on Tuesday, with sites continuing to come under intense pressure.

By 9.20am on Wednesday more than 20 sites across the Melbourne metropolitan area had been closed after reaching capacity.

Travellers required to get tests to leave Victoria were in part behind the testing overload.

"Take Boxing Day, for instance, over 40 per cent of the tests that were done at PCR state locations were for interstate travel," Mr Foley said.

"That's a lot and we... welcome the news today from Queensland that they will in a few days move to rapid antigen tests."

People who are getting a PCR test for travel purposes are encouraged to get tested after 12pm when the demand is lower.

Hospitalisations have jumped from Tuesday too, from 361 to 397, bringing the seven-day average to 379.

However, there are fewer people on ventilators: 28 on Wednesday down from 33 on Tuesday.

There are 62 people actively infectious with the virus in intensive care.

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