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Ratted out: Feds rush to deny minister's claim rapid antigen tests diverted from Qld

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The federal government has denied claims by Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey that rapid antigen tests intended for the state’s rail workers had been diverted elsewhere.

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As the state continues to grapple with a shortage of the test kits, state Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said Mr Bailey had proof of rapid antigen test (RAT) kits being pulled and that it was “disappointing”.

But a federal health department spokesperson said the government had not issued a mandate to divert supplies.

“The Department of Health is in regular contact with state and territory governments and is not aware of any other government seeking to requisition RAT,” the spokesperson said.

Bailey claimed Queensland Rail received an email from its supplier stating that an order of 20,000 RAT kits was at Sydney airport.

“Unfortunately the sponsor of the product has decided that (even though these were fully paid for) they will now only be dealing with the Federal Government and these tests are no longer available,” Mr Bailey said on social media.

Ms D’Ath said on Friday authorities know there is a shortage of tests, but she hoped the Commonwealth was working with industries so stock wasn’t pulled back only to then be given to the same people.

About 409,000 kits had been distributed for public testing clinics and a further one million were expected on Friday.

“Half of those are point of care tests so we won’t be using them at public sites,” she added.

But D’Ath said doctors, primary health networks and aged care facilities were approaching the state for rapid antigen tests and personal protective equipment.

“Now it’s the Commonwealth who are supposed to be supporting that and providing that stock and they told me this week they were,” she added.

“We just can’t be diverting our supplies to primary care when the Commonwealth says they’ve got a stockpile for that very reason.”

The Federal Health Department spokesperson said the Commonwealth had bought more than 10 million RATs since August and ordered more than 70 million for delivery in January and February.

“The states and territories have also placed orders for approximately 130 million RATs for their own use,” the spokesperson told AAP.

“The quantity of RATs procured is expected to meet the foreseeable Commonwealth-related need.”

Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) national secretary Mark Diamond said RAT kits should be provided free to transport workers, but instead they were struggling to access them.

He said the Queensland government had stated the 20,000 RAT kits ordered by Queensland Rail had been requisitioned, describing the confiscation as ‘astonishing” coming at a time when national supply chains were falling apart, and transport workers being told to return to work even if they are a close contact.

“Transport companies are doing their best to secure their own supplies, but they are not being helped by these extraordinary interventions by the federal government.”

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