Around the country, people are struggling to find and purchase Rapid Antigen Tests, known as RATs. These tests are often essential for people to work and to care for their loved ones. The Government - among many other things - has been criticised for not acting when warned earlier in the year to procure enough tests to serve communities.
The burden then has been on local pharmacies and their customers, who are both struggling to find tests, even from official providers.
The Lithgow Mercury spoke with a number of pharmacists who all said they have been fielding non-stop phone calls from residents looking for Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT).
Sandra at Hopes Pharmacy in Lithgow said the pharmacy was waiting on tests that had been paid for in advance.
"We were given the opportunity to prepay for some orders, which we had done, and then in between that the government announced that they were going to issue the free ones. So the suppliers are blaming the government saying that they have seconded [taken] the stock," she said.
Sandra said she was told their pre-paid tests were instead given to the government.
"We are dealing with countless phone calls and people asking for them [rapid tests]. We've got a sign out the front that says 'we have no rapid tests', but people still come in and say, 'the sign says you have no tests. But I was just wondering, do you have any tests?'," Sandra said.
One Lithgow area pharmacist, who asked not to be named, said they are coping 'as best they can' at the moment. "I think the biggest challenge is getting those records in. Because we really need them. And we can't get a hold of them," they said.
"I think that's probably something the government really needs sort of double down on."
They said they had struggled to get any rapid tests to keep up with the overwhelming demand.
"I do feel sometimes like it's a bit of a clash of who's more powerful. So for example, before New Year, I placed an order with a company that had said they could get some in for me by the beginning of January," they said.
"I called to follow up and they basically said to me that the supplies that were allocated to them that we could get were actually diverted to Coles and Woolworths.
"I don't know how true that is. But if that was true, that's pretty unfair."
Sabrina Mou at Doughtery's Pharmacy said it was a struggle to source any tests right now.
"We don't get that many," she said.
"So at the very beginning when it started, there are a lot of people came and bought like five of them. But now we hardly get some like we get probably 10 or 20 if we lucky.
"This all happened because the border was opened at Christmas and after two years people ran on shopping and went on holiday - we just have to live with COVID like we did the way we live with our flu vaccine.
"Take the precautions, do everyday things - buy the masks and maintain one and a half meter distance and use hand sanitiser wash your hands."
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