As Australians struggle to find rapid antigen testing, people are turning to it for this online resources and communities to find where they are available – but they are still often lacking.
The demand for RATs increased as PCR test results began to get longer and COVID-19 numbers soured. Unlike PCR tests, which were available for free at pathology sites and hospitals listed on state health websites, RATs were available at stores ranging from pharmacies to supermarkets. Retailers scrambled to source them and would soon sell out, often at inflated prices. Meanwhile, Australians have reported driving from store to store – sometimes while they are sick – in hopes of finding a test.
Facebook groups dedicated to finding some appearances throughout the country. Thousands of people joined them.
The manager of Rapid Antigen Tests (COVID-19) Brisbane wrote to the nearly 10,000 members of her group on January 3 that she had set up the group to help others: “I hope we as a collective group can help each other where to buy these RATs at the lowest price.
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Others took it even further. Matt Hayward, 24, developed a website that allowed people to crowdsource information about where RATs were available called findarat.com.au. Users could search their location or look at a map to see if nearby places had tests for sale.
Although these online resources and groups have helped some, they have had major issues. The Facebook groups are full of messages from people who can not find tests.
Both group members and users of findarat.com.au have complained that details are outdated or incorrect.
Some entries on the website findarat.com.au, such as a list of RATs for sale at Hillsong for $ 6.66, are clearly trolls.
(There have been allegations that anti-waxers have sabotaged the website by using false entries, but Crikey has not found any evidence to support them.)
This information has effects in the real world. People stand in line at retailers before they open, sometimes to tell them that no one is available.
Meanwhile, other opportunistic individuals and stores are finding ways to escape bans from selling tests on platforms such as Facebook and other online marketplaces.
While individuals have sought to fill the gap left by governments using technology to help each other, their best efforts have not been able to overcome the barriers to finding rapid antigen testing.
Providing reliable information on where Australians can access basic medical supplies during a pandemic requires a top-down system and the investment of dedicated resources. Governments, for whatever reason, have decided that Australians are on their own.
Have you used the internet to hunt down a RAT? Let us know your thoughts by writing to [email protected]. Enter your full name if you wish to be considered for publication Crikey’s Jo Say column. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.