Victorian manufacturers will produce 50 million rapid antigen tests in Melbourne within the next nine months.
RATs have been in scant supply in the state for months, with the lack of tests for COVID-19 leading to shortages of supermarket supplies, business closures and even flight cancellations at Melbourne Airport.
The companies Lumos Diagnostics and Planet Innovation will establish a plant in Melbourne to make the tests, using money from the state’s investment fund.
The Victorian government says the plant will be able to produce a million tests monthly from April, three million from July, ramping up to 50 million test a year from October.
“We know we are going to be using these things for quite some time,” the Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.
Innovation Minister Jaala Pulford acknowledged the tests have been hard to come by.
“Whether it’s critical industries or schools and workplaces, and of course people needing confirmation of a diagnosis or confirmation of a free pass to leave home after a week of isolation,” she said.
The project will mean 95 full-time jobs at the project gets off the ground, and 70 ongoing jobs.
The facility will also be able to produce tests for infectious diseases, tropical diseases, chronic diseases and reproductive health.
The government would not disclose how much money would be spent, citing commercial confidentiality.
Thousands of school students are currently being told to use several RATs per week to stop the spread of COVID-19 on campuses.
The state government is “strongly” recommending primary and secondary students and staff undergo twice-weekly rapid antigen tests at home before school, with those at specialist schools asked to test five days a week.
Six million RATs were delivered to schools by Monday, enough for a fortnight, with 14 million tests to arrive over the first four weeks of the term.