Most state and territory governments say they do not use the Covid-19 test brought to Australia by billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest at a cost of $ 200 million for taxpayers, which can be revealed by the Guardian to have been sent to national medical supplies rather than to the frontline coronavirus.
When announcing the purchase last month, the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said the test will be used to help test the country’s public health unit throughout 2020.
But weeks later most states said they did not use the type of test purchased by the Minderoo Forrest Foundation, which was sold at a cost to the government. Some say they don’t need to do additional tests.
The federal health department told the Australian Guardian that tests purchased by Forrest had been added to the strategic reserve.
Mining figures announced last month that he has obtained 10m Covid-19 PCR tests for Australia from the Chinese manufacturer Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) at a cost of $ 200 million, which will be returned by the federal government.
Forrest and his philanthropic arm, the Minderoo Foundation, have set about securing a test for the government at a time of extreme global demand, and when it is unclear whether the Australian crisis will be as severe as in countries such as the US and Italy.
During Forrest’s announcement last month new test words will give the government confidence to “lift restrictions to speed up the country to return to work”.
Hunt said the test would allow public health units to test for the rest of the year.
“What this 10m test will do is allow our state and territory public health units to test until 2020, to give us the capacity to contain and suppress and defeat the virus,” Hunt said.
But Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory all told the Australian Guardian that they did not use the BGI test. Victoria is the only state that confirms the use of BGI tests.
Some countries even say they are not needed at all. The WA health department said it had sufficient capacity without BGI equipment.
“PathWest – Western Australia’s leading pathology laboratory – does not use BGI’s Covid-19 PCR testing kit,” the department said. “PathWest has enough capacity and reagents to provide testing throughout the state without the need to use this test.”
Queensland Health says it has “sufficient” testing capacity and doesn’t use BGI tests.
“Queensland Health does not use the BGI Covid-19 test or its operating platform,” a spokeswoman said. “Queensland already has sufficient testing capacity, illustrated by the world’s 137,000 Covid-19 test figures since January.”
Tasmania and South Australia did not respond by deadline.
The federal government told the Guardian that BGI tests were obtained for national medical supplies, strategic reserves of medical equipment.
“This acquisition will enable Australia to diversify Covid-19 testing supplies in areas where there are uncertain supply lines and global shortages,” a health ministry spokesman said.
A spokesman for the Minderoo Foundation said: “This is very important, especially during the challenges facing this country from Covid-19, that we all work together and get through this crisis.
“This is why we are working with the government to help save lives where we can and provide test equipment to help the government reopen the economy.
“That is why we also work hard to maintain positive relations with all parties to manage what is in Australia’s national interest.”
This month, The Guardian is revealed the Australian government has agreed to buy 500,000 Covid-19 antibody tests – a different kind of test from the PCR test conducted by Forrest – from Promedical, a company run by convicted rapists and former business ministry services partner, Stuart Robert.
Promedis first fined by the TGA last week for falsely claiming to have approval. The company initially had the authority – which was later canceled – to supply “point-of-care” antibody tests made by Chinese company Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech.
The government agreed to buy the Wondfo test from Promedical, but because the deal collapsed it has refused to enter into a replacement agreement with other official suppliers, arguing that maintenance tests are no longer needed.
One of the suppliers, Tayler Dental Consulting, told Guardian Australia that it was still unclear how any company had reached an agreement to provide the test.
“We contacted various state health departments and sent emails to Greg Hunt, but to no avail. What do we have to do to get the order? Is there a tender process that we haven’t seen? “
The health ministry said: “With the increasing number of supply options available, the Australian Government is not carrying out any additional treatment point serological tests at this stage.”
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