Madonna King: Mandatory RAT self-reporting yet another sign of the lack of any workable plan

RAT mandatory self-reporting is another example of our leaders clutching at straws, writes Madonna King.

RAT mandatory self-reporting is another example of our leaders clutching at straws, writes Madonna King. Photo: TND

The mandatory self-reporting of home COVID tests our state governments are demanding could be the start of an innovative DIY detection scheme we should all be encouraging.

After all, why stop at RAT results?

Why not dob ourselves in for speeding? Or double-parking? Or self-report each time we put our recyclables in the wrong bin? Or jaywalk?

In a litany of absurdities as the COVID story weaves its way through the 2020s, the report-your-own result of a test you’ll be lucky to find is top of the list.

And it points to two undeniable factors.

Firstly, government incompetence and the absence of any genuine innovation means the job falls back on the rest of us, particularly those who might be sick and suffering.

And secondly, the idea is so ludicrous, it’s almost funny. It’s full of holes, is not able to be implemented – and government ministers admit that – and leads to misleading data results.

How can you upload a result when you are unable to access a RAT?

You can’t. And so that big cohort of people are ignored in the results published each day.

So too are those who do the test, and ignore those mandatory and unenforceable rules to tell the government about it.

Another cohort – and this one involves health officials – is also missing from any statistical analysis, and that is because they do not see the relevance of a home test that does little more than create anxiety.

“It doesn’t change the treatment,’’ one medical professional says. “So why bother?’’

Their view is widely reflected, and carries an inconvenient truth.

With symptoms of COVID-19, should we really be driving from pharmacy to supermarket to try and nab a test? Or should we remain at home, with limited contact until the illness – COVID or a cold or a stomach flu – passes?

The reliance on this test – when it doesn’t change the outcome of the illness – is becoming fanciful, with some vendors now wanting buyers to return negative RATs before being allowed into open home inspections.

The black market in their sale is also well under way, with desperate parents pleading on Facebook sites that they will pay what is needed to secure a test for their child.

But why?

If they are really ill, isn’t the advice to take them to the nearest hospital or call an ambulance?

And if they have a minor sniffle, aren’t we told to watch them, give them water and do what we would in flu season, to bring them back to full health quickly.

How is a rapid antigen test, or uploading the result, going to change that treatment?

It’s not. And the RAT mandatory self-reporting is just another example of our leaders clutching at straws, because they don’t have a workable plan to counter a daily tally that continues to climb.

Why even suggest mandatory self-reporting when they admit, at the same time, that it is unenforceable? What might they be hoping to achieve?

When this COVID hangover passes – and it will – what needs to be mandatory is a thorough examination of how our state and federal leaders dealt with this pandemic.

What worked? And what didn’t?

Certainly, the value of research being able to find a vaccine quickly needs to be recognised and applauded.

The same goes with the tests, quickly developed, to diagnose the virus (even though approval for at least one home-grown test remains sitting in some in-tray in Canberra).

But the role of our leaders need to be investigated also.

What could they do better next time? What kind of public policy planning might have eased the load of those separated from families, or fighting an illness alone, at home?

We should ensure, too, that those results are self-reported – because that’s a DIY dobbing scheme that might just prove to be beneficial.

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