Rapid antigen tests are almost entirely unavailable throughout the Southern NSW Local Health District.
Overwhelmed COVID-19 testing facilities are creating a spike in demand for rapid antigen tests as residents attempt to access any form of testing for the virus.
The Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD) - stretching from Mount Kosciusko along the Victorian border to Eden, and as far north as Crookwell - has told residents to expect to wait over 72 hours for testing results.
Travel requirements, precautionary testing before and after Christmas family gatherings and increasing exposure sites are the main factors causing an immense spike in testing according to a local Eurobodalla pharmacist.
"After Christmas gathering, lots more people are getting notifications saying they were exposed to the virus" staff at Batehaven Pharmacy said. "They want to get tested."
SNSWLHD recommends people follow isolating rules if symptomatic and unable to access a PCR test.
"A rapid test is a good interim during this busy period," the spokesperson said.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has also urged aysmptomatic people to undergo rapid tests to ease pressure on testing facilities.
Rapid antigen tests cost about $30 for a pack of two, and offer results in under half an hour. They are considered not as reliable as a standard PCR test.
However, rapid antigen tests are equally as hard to access across the state.
"Everybody wants them," Batehaven Pharmacy staff said. "Four out of five phone calls are asking about rapid antigen tests. Then they ask if I know anywhere that has them. I don't know anywhere that has them.
"We've had no supply of rapid tests in over a week. They are on backorder and the date keeps getting pushed back and back.
"It's so frustrating. We have a couple of suppliers, but everyone is out.
"Current advice is not to go to a PCR testing clinic unless you are displaying symptoms. People are trying to do the right thing by the health advice, and not overwhelm the current system. But they just can't get a test.
"It's frustrating we can't offer customers what they really need and want at the moment."
Plevey's Pharmacy in Bega said they were overwhelmed with demand they simply cannot meet.
"It's manic," a spokesperson said. "The phones don't stop."
"We don't know when we will get more. The due date was January 4, now it's January 14. We receive them when we receive them. We have no idea.
"It's the same for masks. We're out of masks. When they arrive is up in the air. We have no control."
It's a situation shared by pharmacy owners all across the state.
Further north, in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Ramsay Pharmacy in Shoalhaven ran out of rapid tests on December 21. They have 400 on backorder, but received only 130 in the latest delivery because of supplier shortages.
When they do arrive, they sell out in hours.
"Who wants to line up for three hours for a PCR test?" a spokesperson said.
"Everyone from all over wants them. They are just so, so hard to get."
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet acknowledged the rapid testing supply shortage, and yesterday announced the Federal government has ordered more tests to accommodate the growing demand.
"We've put an order in for 20 million rapid tests and my understanding is they will be available by the end of January," he said.
The demand on rapid antigen tests is only set to increase as travel requirements surrounding PCR tests are changed to make rapid tests acceptable for travel.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk posted on Twitter this morning saying: "From January 1, travellers into Queensland from interstate hotspots can use a negative rapid antigen test to satisfy border pass requirements. A PCR test will no longer be required."
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