The prime minister has urged concession card holders to get free rapid antigen tests while they still can, before a government subsidy runs out at the end of the month.
The government has confirmed a scheme that would provide 10 free rapid antigen tests to concession card holders over a three-month period will finish on July 31.
The end of the scheme comes amid a rise in COVID-19 cases across the country and hospitalisations from more infectious sub-variants of the virus.
As a cruise ship with more than 100 positive COVID-19 cases docked in Sydney, Anthony Albanese said the end date of the scheme was put in place by the previous government, but there were other options for people looking to get a subsidised test.
“I’d encourage concession card holders to go and get the 10 free rapid antigen tests that they’re eligible for by the end of this month, there’s still time to go and do that,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“On top of that there are free rapid antigen tests available in aged care facilities across a range of areas.”
The concession scheme was set up in January during the height of the first Omicron wave, when access to the rapid tests were in short supply.
The end of the scheme comes as the government flagged COVID-19 isolation payments for eligible workers would also finish.
Experts have urged for the payments and the rapid tests schemes to remain in place due to an explosion of COVID-19 cases as part of the new Omicron wave.
However, the prime minister said the new government had not been behind either decision.
“This is a decision that was inherited from the former government and state governments,” Mr Albanese said.
Meanwhile, a cruise ship with more than 100 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 has docked in Sydney.
After departing Eden on the NSW South Coast, the Coral Princess with more than 2300 on board, berthed at Circular Quay just before dawn on Wednesday, where it will remain for a day before returning to its home port of Brisbane.
Passengers will have to record a negative RAT result before disembarking. The crew are required to remain on board.
The outbreak aboard the ship mostly involves infected crew members, with 114 in isolation on Tuesday.
Four passengers were also isolating after positive results, and 24 earlier disembarked in Brisbane, Queensland’s chief health officer Dr John Gerrard said.
NSW Health said passengers who tested positive probably took the virus on board with them rather than becoming infected at sea.
Eden-Monaro MP and Regional Development Minister Kristy McBain said locals were happy to see the ship dock after bushfires and the pandemic impacted the region.
A Princess Cruises spokesman said the crew who had tested positive in a recent full-screening were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.
At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, another Princess cruise liner – the Ruby Princess – was briefly linked to one in eight NSW coronavirus cases.
The latest cruise ship outbreak comes as concern grows about the growing spread of the B.4 and B.5 Omicron sub-variants that could reinfect people who have already had the virus.