Queensland COVID-19 PCR test confusion makes the public miss out

The fog of confusion over COVID-19 tests has ended right back where we started: Domestic travelers do not have to pay for PCR tests if required by a public health ordinance.

But why it, more than 20 months inside the pandemic, took days to confirm that nothing had changed, only raises more questions.

Instead of being snapped up in the bud at the earliest opportunity, worries that incoming travelers would have to pay up to $ 150 for a PCR test, in the news cycle – and swelled – until a breakthrough on Tuesday afternoon.

Both Queensland and the federal governments criticized each other for delays in clarifying the funding scheme, with Deputy Prime Minister Steven Miles even cracking down on media reporting on the issue.

But in an ongoing health crisis – with an often time-poor and tired public – clear communication is crucial from both sides.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk holds COVID-19 update at Pimpama on Gold Coast
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she first found out the tests would be free on Tuesday.(ABC News)

During Question Time in the state legislature last Thursday, Deputy Opposition Leader David Janetzki told the premiere that Queensland residents sitting across the border are now “forced to pay $ 150 each for a COVID test” to enter the state.

“Why will the government not cover the costs of those Queenslanders who have been let down by the emergency unit and who just want to come home?” he asked.

When she got up, Mrs Palaszczuk replied that some of these demands were the same for other states and that the government wanted to continue to keep Queenslanders safe.

However, she did not question – or refute – the premise that people coming from the interstate should pay for the tests.

Asked yesterday if she could have been more direct in her response that day, her response was again anything but direct: “As for the federal government, we just have to keep working together, I do not think it has helped anyone “.

The problem only got more oxygen in the following days.

Asked about it on Friday at a news conference with the acting Chief Health Officer, the Deputy Prime Minister called on the Commonwealth to consider that these “tests are part of our broader health response, so they should be eligible for a Medicare rebate”.

At a news conference Monday, the prime minister was asked how long travelers could expect to pay $ 150 for a PCR test.

She replied: “Until we reach 90 percent double dose”, added “the numbers are really encouraging”.

The next day, questioned whether the PCR test was actually a “$ 150 toll on the border,” the prime minister said Federal Health Secretary Greg Hunt “could quite easily turn it into a Medicare rebate … with a stroke of the pen.”

It turned out, however, that the Commonwealth and states already jointly funded tests for people requiring one under a public health order, such as a domestic travel requirement, in an agreement agreed over a year ago.

The federal government’s confirmation of the 50-50 event to journalists on Tuesday afternoon – deep into the saga – was welcomed by Queensland.

But Mr Miles also said: “We just wish it had [been] a little before “and accused federal government politicians of an” orchestrated campaign to confuse people “.

Part of the problem seems to be confusion as to whether an “official certificate” for the negative result was required, rather than the standard text messaging system that has been in operation during the pandemic.

The federal government says a pathology test will only be charged for a patient who requires an official certificate.

However, Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski had already made this point during an interview on ABC Radio last week when he confirmed that the border passport system would accept a screenshot of the text message.

During a brief doorstep yesterday, the prime minister doubled and called for “stopping politics”, while also saying that “the federal election means Queensland is being highlighted”.

“This is about the federal election. Why did the federal government want the Queenslanders to get COVID for Christmas?” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk said she was not aware until Tuesday that people coming to Queensland would not have to pay for a COVID-19 test to enter the state.

On Twitter, Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman wrote: “[The] The entire $ 150 PCR test was a result of the big parties’ choice brains and refusal to communicate as adults. “

While the state and the federal government play politics and blame each other for delays, it is ultimately the public that loses.

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