More than 500,000 Australians have turned to a community-driven website to track down rapid antigen tests (RAT) as the country continues to face major shortages.
Findarat.com.au launched on January 3 and operates as a testing kit locator. It was created by Melbourne-based software engineer Matthew Hayward, who is the chief technical officer at software development agency PipeLabs.
Mr Hayward told The New Daily that he was inspired to create the website by his girlfriend, who was trying to get her hands on a RAT kit.
“So I thought I’d put the technical skills to use and collate all that user data,” Mr Hayward said.
In the 24 hours since the website’s launch at 4pm on Monday, more than 500,000 people have viewed the page.
“There have been 40,000 people in the last 30 minutes and that’s been pretty consistent throughout the whole day,” he said.
Mr Hayward announced the website’s launch on Twitter, less than a week after the federal government announced testing requirements would shift focus from PCR to at-home testing kits.
How it works
Mr Hayward explained there are two sides to the website, beginning with how people can view locations on the map.
Although ‘Find a RAT’ operates nationally, its data is predominantly from Melbourne and the eastern states.
Locations reported as ‘in stock’ are marked as green, ‘low stock’ in orange and ‘no stock’ in grey.
People who have gone to these locations can then update or verify its status on the website.
“It’s community-driven, with some moderation from me,” Mr Hayward said.
“For reference, there has been a total of 4000 reports so far. There is one about every couple of minutes and people are going along to these locations that say they’re available. When those stores run out, people report it.”
Mr Hayward said there have been some fake reports, where people have listed fake addresses, but said the overwhelming majority of usage has been correct.
If someone goes to a listed address and discovers it’s fake, they can submit a report that overrides an existing report.
“There are more good guys than bad guys, you could say,” Mr Hayward said.
Retailers feel the pressure
A spokesperson for Woolworths told The New Daily that they have been sending tens of thousands of rapid antigen testing kits to stores each day.
“But they’re selling through very quickly with the recent surge in demand,” they said.
Woolworths is expecting availability to improve this week after it receives “a much larger order of stock” from suppliers.
Similarly, a Coles spokesperson said they are seeing very strong demand for RAT kits, specifically the Hough COVID-19 Home kit.
To help manage demand, Coles has a one-pack purchase limit in place.
Professor Trent Twomey, Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president, said he expects the distribution of rapid antigen tests to be bumpy until the end of January.
He said COVID-induced shipping delays and public holidays have only exacerbated the low level of supply.
Professor Twomey said many retail outlets, including his pharmacy in Far North Queensland, are working quickly to meet demands by sourcing kits direct from overseas.
“[That] brings with it additional supply costs, even a cost of chartering special-purpose aircraft to speed up supplies,” Professor Twomey told The New Daily.
ACCC investigates price gouging
Some retailers in the private market have been accused of hiking up the price of RAT kits, prompting the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate complaints.
ACCC Chair Rod Sims said the commission had received 100 reports from the public about price gouging.
On FindaRAT.com.au, Mr Hayward said he is working on including price and supply information.
“I’ve had some feedback about in-stock reports, just because there have unfortunately been some price gouging in some locations. So people are keen to see and understand that,” he said.
Mr Hayward is also working on improving the site’s accessibility to suit different people’s needs.
“Hopefully, we can help people find some tests so we can reduce the spread and keep everybody safe.”