No symptoms and not a contact? A COVID-19 test will cost you

Lottie Twyford 15 November 2021 120
Queue at EPIC

When lockdown was first imposed, thousands of people flocked to EPIC every day to get tested, leading to long lines. Photo: Shayna Siakimotu.

Unpleasant as getting swabbed for a COVID-19 test may be, it’s not as unpleasant as being told your mandated COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test will set you back $112.

That was the experience of one Canberra woman who attended the ACT Health COVID-19 testing clinic last Friday night.

According to reports received by Region Media, this resident was told when she arrived at EPIC that if she didn’t have symptoms or wasn’t a close contact, she may have to pay for a test.

She needed a negative COVID-19 test to visit a relative in a regional NSW aged care facility. A PCR test, rather than a rapid antigen test, was a condition of entry to the facility. Negative COVID-19 tests may also be required for some travel.

The source told Region Media that staff and nurses at EPIC were encouraging people to ‘develop’ symptoms before arriving at the front of the queue to avoid paying for a precautionary test. Staff walked down a line of waiting cars and were also heard discussing the message at a shift changeover.


READ ALSO: Face masks may stay for good, even after ACT COVID mandates wind down


A spokesperson for ACT Health was unable to corroborate the report.

They said that if a person attends an ACT Government testing clinic without symptoms or having been directed to get testing by ACT Health or another state or territory health authority, they will not be tested.

The spokesperson said ACT Health has “been clear with the community throughout the pandemic that public testing clinics are only for people who require testing [for the aforementioned reasons]”.

Without going into the specifics of this particular instance, the spokesperson said any “questions about visitor entry policies will need to be directed to the relevant residential aged care facility”.

Ms Stephen-Smith said today that each aged care facility was now in charge of its own visitor policies.

Since the start of the territory’s recent outbreak, COVID-19 cases have been recorded at four aged care facilities – LDK Greenway, Calvary Haydon Retirement Village, Goodwin Village Ainslie and from today, St Andrew’s Village in Hughes.

The ACT Government COVID-19 website also states it’s unable to provide the required documentation for international or domestic travel.

Instead, people who need to provide a negative test result for travel will be required to arrange this “privately with your GP and discuss any fees for this service”.

Rapid antigen covid test

Although rapid antigen testing kits are available now, they can’t replace a PCR test in most cases – if it’s required. Photo: Damien Larkins.

Low testing numbers in recent weeks have led to authorities pleading with the community to get tested to maintain surveillance of the virus across the ACT.

Today, Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith again issued a call for anyone with symptoms to get tested and stay home, saying now is not the time for ‘soldiering on’ when unwell. She was happy to see longer lines this morning at testing sites around Canberra.

Rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 are now available from retailers such as chemists and major supermarkets after the TGA approved them for use from Monday, 1 November. Currently, a pack of five tests could cost around $60.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said there may be situations where the government could fund rapid antigen tests if required as a condition of entry to government-run facilities. For the most part, however, he said Canberrans would need to access and purchase their own kits.


READ ALSO: It’s finally freedom day, so what can I do now?


Doherty Institute Modelling presented to National Cabinet earlier this month suggested using a “test to stay” system where children only had to stay home if they returned a positive result to a rapid test. The modelling showed this was as effective as quarantining a whole class.

Earlier today, Ms Stephen-Smith said authorities are considering whether or not a pilot program of the testing regime would go ahead this year.

Rapid antigen tests work similarly to a PCR test – through a nasal or throat swab – but can return results much quicker.

The TGA advises that anyone who returns a positive result after using a rapid antigen test should get a PCR test as these are more reliable.


What's Your Opinion?


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120 Responses to No symptoms and not a contact? A COVID-19 test will cost you
Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 5:06 pm 18 Nov 21

Just tell them you have symptoms - easy !!

Jessica Fryer Jessica Fryer 2:15 pm 16 Nov 21

She got quoted a good price. I paid $300 for certificates to get two people to Victoria two months ago.

gwkbike gwkbike 1:28 pm 16 Nov 21

For international travel, some cross border travel, access to some facilities with vulnerable people etc a legally verifiable test result is or is going to be needed – otherwise testing would be a useless requirement. Self-tests are not useful in this context as they cannot be validated or even the tester verified, and no test is 100% reliable. UK prices for self test kits start at UK pounds 60 for a single test.

The text messages from free government testing are not reliable evidence of anything – they can be so easily faked.

SO we are all going to have to get used to paying for legally verifiable tests when we need them and they cost $120-150 .

Penelope Farnsworth Penelope Farnsworth 11:17 am 16 Nov 21

This is going to become more common. Maybe more places will need to accept rapid antigen test and double vaccination. Also, I wonde what will be accepted as evidence of test result. I only got a text from my mandated post exposure test. Not sure if that would be accepted for travel.

Camille Martin Camille Martin 8:58 am 16 Nov 21

So just say you’ve been feeling breathless or displaying other symptoms ffs. They cant disprove you are experiencing symptoms outside of your body’s normal operation.

Ben Croker Ben Croker 8:11 am 16 Nov 21

It is interesting how people's positions change pretty quickly when they are asked to pay for something themselves

JC JC 8:01 am 16 Nov 21

The Facebook comments on this article are funny as.

Either people cannot read past the headline or education in the ACT is so crap and has been for 50 odd years that people lack basic comprehension skills.

Sooz Molloy Sooz Molloy 7:17 am 16 Nov 21

That’s Crap!

Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 6:16 am 16 Nov 21

geesh it seems the only way not to get charged is to lie???????????? well if it is good enough for the Government I guess cough, I can cough, do cough it cough if cough necessary cough cough cough...

Jiv Michael Jiv Michael 11:15 pm 15 Nov 21

Need to put money back into the light rail project now....

Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić 10:42 pm 15 Nov 21

How people dare to test themselves before going to aged care with more reliable tests than PCR tests and spend public money? We have committed 1.9 BILLION for the tram project (only stage two), that up to 8% of residents will use. Meanwhile, we forecasted $951m of deficit in the budget. We could give up or postpone tram or a big battery, but instead we will cheap out on our COVID tests in the pandemic.

It makes sense. We have had the worst ER and overall healthcare in Australia for years, longest wait times and limited beds, so it is the best place to save money on as people keep voting for them. Those who experienced our healthcare first hand do not always survive anyway to vote against. And if it rips again, we can always say that COVID outbreak was unexpected during pandemic. And if you think this is sarcasm, no, that is what Barr already said, for 2021/2022, not for 2019/2020 or 2020/2021.

https://infrastructurepipeline.org/project/act-light-rail-stage-2

    Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić 10:42 pm 15 Nov 21

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-06/act-five-key-takeaways-from-budget-canberra-951-million-deficit/100517532

Rebecca Rich Rebecca Rich 10:36 pm 15 Nov 21

Andrea Rich, will have to keep an eye on this before we travel!

Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić 10:33 pm 15 Nov 21

Now with increased risks following opening which are still yet to be seen how will they impact us, the best is to scare people away from testing.

I see ACT is reverting back to its official status of the worst healthcare state or territory in Australia.

However, we have started talking about tram extension and Big Battery, because for tax funded monuments there is always money...

    Debbie Thomsen Debbie Thomsen 6:46 am 16 Nov 21

    What do you expect? It is free if health-related, but if you just want a test, of course you should pay! Sheesh, peeps, not everything is free!! Like, can ACT afford to freely hand out tests that Capital Pathology is charging ACT govt for every single test that is done? You should be angry at Capital Pathology for making a profit from the pandemic!!! Everything ends up costing, so go ahead and whine now, but wait until rates etc get raised to pay for it all

    Debbie Thomsen Debbie Thomsen 8:21 pm 16 Nov 21

    Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić get over it, mate. The light rail is here, it's well used and let's face it, we desperately need better public transport. So it's about time we all accepted that it's here to stay

    Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić 11:39 pm 16 Nov 21

    Debbie, but it has no higher priority vs saving lives or getting out of debt.

John Schonners Schonberger John Schonners Schonberger 9:59 pm 15 Nov 21

ACT Health the silence is deafening........

Not wanting to comment or confirm......

    Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 6:17 am 16 Nov 21

    John Schonners Schonberger so same ol same ol?

Tam Ster Tam Ster 9:55 pm 15 Nov 21

Self antigen testing implemented 1 November, pity each state has their own rules around this.

Barry Finch Barry Finch 9:18 pm 15 Nov 21

COVID-19 testing should be covered by Medicare

Gerard Dwyer Gerard Dwyer 8:21 pm 15 Nov 21

Who read the article?

    Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 6:18 am 16 Nov 21

    Gerard Dwyer did you?

    Gerard Dwyer Gerard Dwyer 6:20 am 16 Nov 21

    Linda Stapleton absolutely, it's clear that most commenters did not.

    Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 6:21 am 16 Nov 21

    Gerard Dwyer lol yes I noticed that as well...

Jenny Thomas Jenny Thomas 8:17 pm 15 Nov 21

You have to pay for a travel one too

Matt Burley Matt Burley 8:13 pm 15 Nov 21

Just say you’ve got a sore throat…

Heather Purvis Heather Purvis 7:57 pm 15 Nov 21

Lei - read this

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