Barnaby Joyce has apologised for claiming ‘people aren’t dying’ of Covid in Australia, while also blaming the public for the shortage of rapid antigen tests
The Deputy Prime Minister made the assertion on ABC’s RN Breakfast program, which he retracted when challenged on it, quickly apologising.
‘Well, people aren’t dying,’ he told the show’s host, Patricia Karvelas, in response to her pointing out that Australia was now designated a Covid danger zone.
‘People are dying. People are dying every day,’ Ms Karvelas said.
Barnaby Joyce has blundered twice on live radio, blaming the public for the shortage of rapid tests for Covid-19 and claiming Australians are not dying from the virus
Mr Joyce also claimed on the program the difficulty people have finding Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) was not the government’s fault (pictured, people queuing to buy rapid tests in Sydney)
‘Sorry, sorry sorry. Yes, you’re correct, I shouldn’t have said that,’ Mr Joyce quickly responded.
In Australia over 3,103 people have died from Covid-19 since March 2020, with fatalities dramatically increasing this month due to the Omicron surge.
Mr Joyce also claimed on the program the difficulty people have finding Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) was not the government’s fault.
‘They’ve been hoarded, as you know,’ he said.
‘It is not as if the tests aren’t there. The problems that Australia is experiencing is being experienced around the world.’
The Deputy Prime Minister made the assertion Australians are not dying on ABC’s RN Breakfast program on Monday, which he retracted when challenged on it, quickly apologising (pictured, Mr Joyce with partner Vikki Campion and sons Sebastian and Thomas)
‘We don’t manufacture RATs like other countries do, such as China … You can’t, years ago, predict RATs are going to be the things that you need. But what we are doing is making sure we deal with issues as they come along. That is what a competent government does.’
Six million Australians are officially eligible to receive free rapid antigen tests, however pharmacies are concerned over whether there will be any to give out.
Concession card holders will be able to claim up to 10 of the free self-test kits over a three-month period starting from Monday.
Pensioners, veterans and low-income earners will be able to access RATs for free and can claim a maximum of five tests per month.
Mr Joyce said both the public and businesses were stockpiling the instant home tests, which have been hard to find since becoming part of the states’ strategy to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The fast spread of the highly-contagious Omicron variant initially caused long queues for official PCR testing stations around Christmas and into early January 2022.
In NSW, people who test positive for Covid-19 are required to register a negative RAT result before re-entering the community.
Joyce gave a rambling answer when defending the government’s performance on RATs, listing the huge numbers of tests due to arrive in coming weeks.
”We’ve got 16 million will be turning up in the next week, by the end of the month, and we’ve got another 33 million turning up after that, we’ve 70 million on order and the States are bringing in 130 million, so it’s not as if the tests aren’t there.’
In NSW, people who test positive for Covid-19 are required to register a negative RAT result before re-entering the community
He added that the government couldn’t have predicted RATs ‘are going to be the things you need’.
Karvelas again countered Joyce. ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but I have to interrupt … yeah you can [anticipate] in fact in August you were told to anticipate it.’
Joyce replied ‘We’ve been buying rapid antigens, it’s not as if they’re not here, we’ve been buying them, we’ve been bringing them in, they’ve been hoarded.’
‘People have been buying not what they require, but more than they need.’
Karvelas asked if he was ‘blaming average Australians?’
‘No, a lot of times, even corporations and businesses who buy up more than they require. It’s part and parcel of what you’d expect, it’s like saying you’re not producing enough toilet paper because people are swiping it off the shelves.
‘I don’t know why they do it, but they do … so next week, next week, we’ve got 16 million coming in, then we’ve got more than 33 million after that.’
Joyce said he could not promise that ‘pensioners’ who needed RATs would be able to find them, but said ‘we are giving our best endeavours to make sure that does not occur.’