22 November 2021

Probing the polls: AWM expansion blues and costly COVID-19 tests

| Genevieve Jacobs
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The drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Kambah

The drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Kambah. Photo: Canberra Health Services.

The project has been mired in controversy, but extensive demolition works have already begun at the Australian War Memorial. The 20-year-old Anzac Hall building is gone, and as the building re-opened, visitors are weaving their way around a building site as preliminary works progress.

But our readers are less convinced, based on last week’s poll.

The $500 million redevelopment proposal will provide more space to tell the stories of more contemporary conflicts and missions such as Iraq and Afghanistan. But for many, the key question is whether the Memorial is primarily a place of commemoration and reflection, or is expanding into being a museum, something beyond its original charter.

We asked Do you think the new War Memorial extension is a worthwhile idea?

A total of 1,195 people voted. Your options were to vote No, the AWM is a shrine, not a museum. Leave it alone. This received 76 per cent of the total, 905 votes. Alternatively, you could choose to vote Yes, it’s a fitting way to commemorate an important part of our history. This received 24 per cent of the total, or 290 votes.

This week, we’re wondering about paying for COVID-19 tests if you’re not symptomatic. There was a deluge of comments when we reported 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 COVID test.

READ ALSO Should some people have to pay a COVID test fee even if there’s no choice?

ACT Health responded that this had always been the case. A statement said that testing was always reserved for those with symptoms. Anyone who needed to prove they were COVID negative to travel, visit nursing homes, or similar high-risk environments would have to pay for the test.

This was news to most Canberrans, who have been constantly encouraged to get tested in order to provide surveillance across the Territory as the pandemic hit. Many readers pointed out that they needed to be COVID-safe around vulnerable family members and others at risk, arguing that paid testing for non-symptomatic people would reduce testing rates.

Laura Harrell wrote: “ACT Health are promoting to get tested. I’ve had numerous tests due to bad hayfever and asthma and now there is a suggestion of having to pay for it?! That’s just going to drive testing numbers down and not promote a healthy level of surveillance. Dangerous for children who can’t be vaccinated as well as immunocompromised members of our community.”

But another reader pointed out that, “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 per cent reliable. UK prices for self test kits start at £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?”

Our question this week is:

Should all COVID-19 tests be free?

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With regards to Covid tests, can people read what was actually discussed? And the poll question clearly doesn’t cover it.

There was no suggestion that government promoted testing for symptomatic people or those who are close/casual contacts should be privately paid for. These tests clearly need to be government funded as they have a direct link to reducing virus spread.

The suggestion was for individuals to pay for tests that are only required because of things that person has chosen to do. ie. Testing requirements for overseas travel. Which is perfectly reasonable.

Scott Anthony9:23 pm 22 Nov 21

Apparently COVID 19 is such a massive and dangerous pandemic that we all needed to be locked down and some jobs require mandatory vaccinations, but a simple test is a ‘user pays’ proposition..? How is this such a major health pandemic but not so much as to provide taxpayer funded (nothing is free) testing…?

I can’t see people agreeing to pay for Covid tests each time they have a sniffle. They just won’t do it.
You just have to look at private health insurance, most people won’t pay for it. They just rely on Medicare.

The situation in Qld where it appears that they will only open their boarders to double-vaxed Australians who pay for private Covid tests is absolutely disgraceful. The Qld Premier needs to rethink this very quickly.

There are a proportion of Covid sufferers who are asymptomatic. If it costs too much to have a test when you don’t have much in the way of symptoms, people will not get tested thus setting up the possibility of more outbreaks. Putting the tests onto Medicare seems to be a reasonable idea.

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