COVID cases pass 500k as infections surge
With NSW, Victoria and South Australia again recording a daily record number of COVID-19 infections, Australia has passed the unwanted milestone of 500,000 cases.
The mark was passed on Tuesday after almost every jurisdiction posted record high daily totals, with more than 47,000 infections.
The rise in cases comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under increasing pressure to make rapid antigen tests free, with widespread shortages continuing.
As people struggle to get a rapid test, leading to long queues at PCR testing sites, medical experts have slammed government inaction to secure enough tests to meet demand.
Australian Medical Association vice president Chris Moy said there didn't appear to be a plan from the government surrounding rapid tests.
"There is an inability to supply at the critical moment and there is a lack of equity of access and it is costing so much," Dr Moy said on Tuesday.
"The case numbers from Omicron is way outside those of Delta ... these numbers are way outside of what people were expecting and this day was always going to come.
"We need rapid antigen tests in play and in people's hands."
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese lashed out at the government's handling of the issue, calling for greater access to rapid tests.
"The fact is this government is responsible for the largest public policy failure in Australian political history," he told reporters on the NSW Central Coast.
"Australians are being told, 'You're on your own and go out and get a rapid antigen test', but they're not available in so many areas.
While Mr Albanese has not called for the tests to be made free, he has urged the government to make them more affordable.
Australian Council of Social Service president Peter McNamara urged the government to secure better access to COVID-19 tests for the vulnerable.
"It's a massive policy shift from providing free PCR testing for everyone, to expecting people and organisations to pay for their own rapid antigen tests," he said.
"This is the worst time of the year for a sudden change of government policy like this."
Australian consumer watchdog chief Rod Sims said the ACCC was closely monitoring reports of price gouging on rapid tests and promised to crack down on offending retailers.