'NOT TRUE': Scott Morrison hits out at rapid test 'lie'

Scott Morrison has hit out at "false claims" the Commonwealth is requisitioning rapid antigen tests from businesses.

The prime minister’s comments come after the Australian Financial Review reported on Wednesday that RAT retailers have told customers the kits had been diverted to the national stockpile.

Companies like Werko and Star Hygiene have pointed to the government as the reason in delays in filling customer orders, the publication said.

Mr Morrison categorically denied the claims in Canberra on Thursday afternoon.

"I want to stress that these are false claims," he said before reading a statement from the Department of Health.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra where he spoke about the rapid antigen test. Source: AAP
The prime minister’s comments come amid claims rapid antigen test retailers have told customers the kits had been diverted to the national stockpile. Source: AAP

"The Commonwealth government, through the Department of Health, is reporting false claims of the requisitioning of rapid antigen tests to the ACCC," the statement read.

"These claims are categorically untrue. They have also been made in relation to at least one state government and will be a matter for the ACCC.

"Supplies of rapid antigen testing kits are not being redirected to the Commonwealth and at no time has the department sought to place itself ahead of other commercial and retail entities."

The department said it expects the supply of RATs to normalise over the coming weeks.

Mr Morrison doubled down on his response after journalists pushed him on the issue.

"We're not redirecting supplies to Commonwealth orders. And we have not put in place any arrangements to do that,” he said.

"We deal with the suppliers directly, as to the state and territory governments and enter commercial arrangements with them.

"We are not nationalising the means of production or distribution as a government. Even though some might want to do that, our government would never do that."

Maria Scafi, the site lead at the Rapid Antigen Test Kit Distribution centre hands out a Rapid Antigen Test Kit at the Sunshine West Community Centre in Melbourne. Source: AAP
The federal health department said it expects the supply of RATs to normalise over the coming weeks. Source: AAP

TGA: Companies are making false claims about RAT approval

Earlier on Thursday, Health Minister Greg Hunt indicated many businesses were lying and suppliers had overcommitted and were unable to deliver the rapid tests.

The head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, John Skerritt, said the expanded use of rapid antigen tests had brought about issues of companies making false claims about approval.

"We have had a lot of trouble with companies making false claims, for example, they've submitted applications to us when they haven't even put in an application for approval," he said.

"We've had issues of falsified letters of approval ... it's out and out a forgery.

"While we've got a lot of companies doing some really good work getting their product out there to supply chains, there are some who are clearly doing the wrong thing."

However, one testing kit supplier told customers in an email, obtained by AAP: "The saliva tests were prioritised to the government's national stockpile and were pulled from under our nose - without prior notice - causing major delays."

"We are dealing with a high-volume backlog and limited resources, and we wanted to reassure you that we are taking action to deliver your orders as soon as possible."

RATs expected to be scarce until February

Despite the health department’s promise supplies will normalise, the national president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Chris Freeman, said RATs are expected to be scarce until at least February.

Even after that, he said there would still be many issues for pharmacies to stock the rapid tests.

"This ongoing predicament with rapid antigen tests continues to place huge pressure on the profession," he said.

"In the meantime, our pharmacists are working around the clock to source their own supply of these tests, whilst juggling a huge number inquiries from patients about stock availability."

With AAP

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