Australian sellers to face jail time for price-gouging Covid-19 test kits

A pharmacy in Sydney, Australia, displaying a sign to inform customers that rapid antigen test kits are sold out, on Jan 5, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

CANBERRA (XINHUA) - Australian retailers who price-gouge Covid-19 antigen rapid test kits will face prison time and fines under a new law.

The federal government on Saturday (Jan 8) listed antigen rapid test kits for Covid-19 on Australia's biosecurity determination, making price-gouging on the product illegal.

In a statement, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said exporting the test kits from Australia has also been banned "unless a valid exception applies".

"These measures are consistent with those implemented for masks and other personal protective equipment in March 2020," they said.

"These measures will prevent people who have purchased (test kits) at retail settings to on-sell them at extortionate prices... assessed at more than 120 per cent more than the price for which they were purchased."

Penalties for failing to comply with the new requirements include up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to A$66,000 (S$64,000), or both.

The measures will be in place until at least Feb 17.

It comes amid ongoing supply shortfalls of test kits around the country, with individual kits being reportedly sold for up to A$50.

Australia on Saturday reported more than 100,000 new locally acquired Covid-19 infections for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Among the new cases were former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who announced his diagnosis one day after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed he had tested positive.

"Like hundreds of thousands of other Australians, I have tested positive for Covid-19. Symptoms moderate so far. Isolating as required," Mr Turnbull, who served as prime minister between 2015 and 2018, wrote on social media.

"This pandemic, and especially this latest wave, has put our health professionals under enormous pressure - please be polite and considerate when dealing with the front-line health workers," he wrote.

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