In Australia, a federal system set up at the end of January allows retirees and concession card holders to have free access to up to 10 rapid antigenic tests over three months through their pharmacist. But the program got off to a rocky start, with supply issues hampering attempts to purchase the tests. In January, the competition regulator raised concerns that rapid antigen tests often cost between 20 and 30 Australian dollars (15 to 20 pounds) per test and sometimes more than 70 Australian dollars per test in smaller retail outlets, despite wholesale costs ranging from A$3.95 to A$11.45.
In Belgium the price of an antigen self-test sold in pharmacies is around €6-8 (£5-7), more expensive than in neighboring countries, such as France and the Netherlands, although they are available in Belgian supermarkets for around €3. Prices have fallen and are expected to fall further: a major pharmacy chain announced this week that it had started selling tests at €1.99. While a PCR test, which costs around €41, is free for people with symptoms, or can be reimbursed by health insurance, self-tests generally have to be paid for by individuals. Belgian consumer association Test-Achats/Test Aankoop estimated this week that a family of four could spend €250 a month on Covid tests, hand sanitizer and face masks.
Self-administered tests in France cost between €4 and €5 in pharmacies and around €1.25 in supermarket multipacks. Lateral flow tests and PCR tests given at pharmacies, laboratories and test centers (both of which give you a result with a QR code allowing you to travel, for example) are free for everyone who is registered with the French health system and fully vaccinated. People who are not in the system (tourists for example) and those who are not fully vaccinated pay around €25 for a lateral flow and up to €45 for a PCR.
Germany abolished its free rapid coronavirus screening system – used by Germans to enter places such as theaters and football stadiums – in October. Unvaccinated people – except pregnant women, children or people advised against getting vaccinated for medical reasons – had to pay for the tests. The hope was that people would no longer rely on the testing system to avoid getting vaccinated. However, a month later free testing was reintroduced as authorities struggled to curb rapidly rising infection rates.
In South Africa rapid antigen tests sell for ZAR 380 (£18.50) and PCR tests for double that.
Testing regimens vary depending on Spain17 autonomous regions. In the Madrid region, the government has so far distributed 5 million free antigen tests which can be collected from pharmacies in and around the capital. In mid-January, the Spanish government capped the price of antigen tests on sale in pharmacies at €2.94. Before the introduction of the cap, test kits sold for around €10 and were not always available.
In Thailand, antigen test kits are sold online, in convenience stores and pharmacies, with prices starting at around 50 baht (£1.13). The government has also started selling antigen tests for 35 baht (79p) at eight locations in Bangkok and online. If you want to go to a tourist destination, you may need to pass a test before entering, which may cost more. The cost of PCR tests ranges from 1,300 baht in some areas to 4,500 baht.
In the we, the cost of and access to rapid antigen and PCR tests vary greatly depending on where you live and what health insurance you have, if any. A rapid antigen test can cost around $15 (£11) from a pharmacy or supermarket, but since January there has been a surge in free testing sites across the country, along with millions of test kits for the schools. PCR tests are available at private clinics, costing $100 or more, but you can also get them for free at some hospitals and clinics, although access varies widely. Since January 15, private health insurance companies have been required to pay for up to eight rapid home tests. For the roughly 28 million people without health insurance, the Biden administration has said it will buy a billion free tests, which people can request online or at local health clinics and pharmacies, though it won’t. is unclear how many have been secured and distributed so far.
Reporting by Jennifer Rankin, Sam Jones, Jon Henley, Rebecca Ratcliffe, Jason Burke and Nina Lakhani