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Coronavirus Pandemic

Persons with disabilities lead push for free rapid COVID tests

Taking Covid test sample from nose of senior woman

Peak advocacy organisation People with Disability Australia (PWDA) has called for the nation’s governments to deliver free rapid antigen testing, increased resourcing and N95 masks for people with disability, their families and workforce.

PWDA, which also backs free rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 for the wider community, said at minimum free tests should be available to people with disability who are at risk of severe disease, their families and workers.

PWDA president Samantha Connor said, “Government has a clear responsibility to keep people with disability safe by providing safe and free in home testing, including PCR testing for those who cannot safely travel.”

“Free or heavily government-subsidised tests should be also readily available to the public via pharmacies, community pick-up points, education settings, workplaces and other public settings.”

Ms Connor, an advocate and disability rights activist, said Australia could look overseas for good models to follow.

“In the United Kingdom, a twice weekly preventative regime is in place to ensure that people with disability who receive care services are safe from COVID,” she said.

“People with disability and their caregivers are able to access rapid antigen tests in the UK, including via mail, as part of a wider preventative regime of COVID-safe strategies.”

PWDA is concerned that yesterday’s push in Federal Cabinet to change the national definition of close contacts for COVID testing to four hours of contact will mean that people with disability could unknowingly contract COVID from support workers, who often work shifts less than four hours.

“Without a free and freely available regime of rapid antigen testing for disability support workers, families and carers, people with disability who are clinically vulnerable to COVID could die.”

The Board of PWDA has called for a range of measures to be urgently implemented in a position statement on rapid antigen measures today, highlighting the disability sector’s Statement of Human Rights, Disability and Ethical Decision Making.

“It is imperative that Federal, State and Territory governments move immediately to make people with disability safe,” Ms Connor said.

“There is no time to waste. This is a critical emergency and the time for action is now.”

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