The NSW government will scrap a $12m Covid program and redirect funds to healthcare, marking another significant step away from pandemic measures.
It’s been almost two years since vaccinated residents were let out of a 106-day lockdown to stop the spread of cases during the height of the pandemic.
Mandatory reporting of positive rapid antigen test results was scrapped almost a year ago, but the government has continued to haemorrhage about $270,000 every month for the program, The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday.
It also marks one of the final steps away from pandemic measures.
In a press conference on Friday, NSW Health Minister Ryan Park announced that residents would no longer be able to report a positive RAT as of October 1.
“We know that they played an important role during the peak of Covid but we also know that our community has to start to learn to live with Covid,” he said.
More than one million RAT results were reported using the Service NSW app, in the first half of 2022.
Over the same period this year, less than 126,000 results were reported.
However, Mr Park has already received questions over whether the program is being scrapped prematurely.
On Thursday, a new Covid variant that evolved from the highly infectious Omicron BA.2 subvariant was detected in Western Australia.
“It‘s not jumping the gun,” Mr Park said.
“I’ve got to make a decision and balance between what is an appropriate measure that I need to take to keep the community safe.
“I do have a big responsibility to make sure that I use taxpayers’ money wisely and to get the most health services and the most healthcare workers out in their hospitals.”
The government will redirect the more than $12m dedicated to funding the program for the next four years towards the state’s health services and essential care workers.
“There’s an enormous amount of daily pressure on our local hospitals, whether it’s in the Illawarra, western Sydney or rural and regional communities,” Mr Park said.
“What we know is those hospitals need more staff, more infrastructure, and they need more services.”