Rapid Antigen Testing needed to keep ACT pharmacy doors open

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) ACT Branch welcomes Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s commitment to introduce rapid antigen testing in the ACT, and calls on the ACT Government to fund rapid antigen testing for ACT pharmacies as a matter of priority.

Since the ACT entered lockdown on 12th August, there have been 82 COVID-19 exposures in 37 of the ACT’s 82 pharmacies. This often means pharmacies need to close for a period of time whilst employees get tested, impacting the community’s access to medicines.

By introducing and funding rapid antigen testing for pharmacists and their staff, pharmacists will be able to monitor their workforce more closely and get back-to-work sooner after a potential workplace COVID-19 exposure, ensuring that the vital care that pharmacies offer to the community can continue.

PSA ACT Branch President, Renae Beardmore, said: “Becoming an exposure site places huge pressure on a pharmacy. They will often need to reduce their hours or services if their staff are required to quarantine. Delays in contact tracing and receiving test results add to these pressures.

“At $10 a test, this a very cheap but worthwhile investment for the ACT Government. Rapid antigen testing would allow asymptomatic pharmacy employees to be tested quickly, ensuring a safer workplace and maintaining community access to medicines and services.

“Achieving our vaccination targets is absolutely the first step in order for Canberra to come out of lockdown. However, the second crucial step is to introduce rapid antigen testing for asymptomatic Canberrans – and pharmacies need to be prioritised.

“Pharmacists have done a great job protecting their staff and the community from exposure to COVID-19 in community pharmacy, by wearing of PPE and implementing other distancing measures. Rapid antigen testing now needs to play a significant role in reducing isolation periods of essential workers and identifying infection prior to onset of symptoms in high risk settings – such as pharmacies,” Ms Beardmore said.

Rapid Antigen Testing will allow community pharmacies to bring their workforce back sooner while awaiting PCR test results. Returned in less than 15 minutes, negative rapid antigen tests will provide health authorities and community pharmacies the confidence to reopen sooner to ensure their communities continue to have access to essential medicines and health services such as vaccinations.

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