A Sydney Morning Herald article printed today by journalist Anna Patty outlines - amongst other major retailers - why Harvey Norman decided to purchase RAT tests well back in September 2021. Yet has Ms. Patty and the SMH inadvertently begged the question of insider trading or just a lucky business decision on behalf of the likes of Gerry and big corporates?
With questions beginning to rear their ugly heads on social media as early as New Years Day in regards to Gerry Harvey's fortuitous purchase of RAT tests, it was clear Harvey needed a little good PR.
As most good crisis PR agents well know, the media is often a platform utilised to defuse bad media, divert attention from wrong-doings and even dodge potentially criminal behavior.
And no one would know this more than big retailers, the likes of Harvey Norman.
Coinciding with the ACCC beginning to investigate price gouging along with the sudden announcement of mandated RAT tests now essential; with prices rising faster than the collectives frustration and anger, it became clear some of our biggest retailers had some questions to answer around the TGA's RAT approval and timelines.
Enter Anna Patty, a regular Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald. With a writing focus on higher education, along with formerly extending her pen as a Workplace and Education Editor, a State Political Reporter, and randomly (and propitious) enough, a Health Reporter; it appears Patty was the right girl for the job.
The title of her article begins by painting the picture any crisis PR firm would cry years of joy and instantly promote their account manager upon reading, "The smart companies that avoided RAT trap by bulk ordering kits last year".
Patty starts by immediately alleviating and downplaying the seriousness of the situation by focusing on glowing praises of the retail sector, highlighting the prowess of such intelligent and prophetic business minds such as Gerry Harvey, who may or may not only possess a crystal ball that can peer deep into the decisions of the TGA months before made, yet may also have predicted the oncoming Omicron variant necessitating excessive use of the RAT tests.
"Finding a rapid antigen test has become like a game of snap for millions of Australians who spend hours searching pharmacies and supermarkets before supplies are sold out within minutes of hitting shelves", she writes.
"But some forward-thinking businesses secured supplies months ago, knowing the tests would hold the key to helping keep them afloat".
She quickly then outlines as a matter of course the fact Harvey ordered tens of thousands of RAT kits in September as, again, being a successful and international businessman of great stature - he just knows his stuff.
"Gerry Harvey started putting in orders for tens of thousands of RAT kits in September and now supplies them to most Harvey Norman staff nationally".
“We are probably doing this as well as or better than anyone,” he says.
"With stores in eight countries, Harvey says he had the advantage of seeing the impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 overseas.
“We have a world vision on it that is probably not quite as apparent to other people. We might have something happening in Ireland or Malaysia, [and] we think maybe that can happen in Australia,” he says.
"We saw that Omicron virus was kicking off really strongly overseas ... and we figured it was going to here.”
"Harvey has been able to stockpile tests through Australian distributors of the kits manufactured overseas but declines to name his suppliers or how much he has spent. The tests have been crucial in preventing stores from closing because staff can get a test result before turning up to work".
Now to Patty, all this may have sounded legit except for *fact check aisle 4*, the Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on 24 November 2021, a good two months after Gerry's savvy RAT purchase.
Given geriatric Gerry may well have a case of the Joe Biden variant, it would be easy to potentially blame his admission made to the most (formerly) respected newspaper in Australia on dementia. Except, the rest of the article strangely goes on to name only one other major business, Allied Express Transport, and omits a key point - the timeline of purchase.
Patty admits, "Managing director of Allied Express Transport Michelle McDowell made a big financial investment in providing free rapid antigen testing on-site to help keep the business afloat".
She sure did.
It appears Ms. McDowell may also do well to throw in her managing director role and hit Crown (excuse the pun) Casino with a pack of cards, some dice and a bottle of Dom Perrottet, oops I mean Dom Perignon.
Further included in the article is ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar who rightly states that, aside from a lucky few big business seers, the state of affairs in Australia around RAT tests has been left wanting.
"While Australia’s vaccination rates are among the highest in the world, it has lagged other countries, including Britain, in approving the use of rapid antigen tests as part of the public health response," he said.
“Smaller businesses on the other hand don’t have the same access to suppliers nor the internal resourcing to manage what is an administratively complex and expensive program".
It's worthy to note in August 2021, the Royal College of Pathologists in Australia sent out a media release outlining their concerns regarding the limitations in sensitivity RAT testing.
Speaking of the time lag and certainly, in respect to Gerry and mates, it's worthy to note the Royal College of Pathologists of Australisia (RCPA) - the leading professional organisation representing pathologists, medical specialists, and scientists who provide pathology testing in Australasia - expressed their very real concerns around the efficacy and approval of the RAT tests in a media release dated August 10, 2021.
It reads, "Due to limitations in sensitivity, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia remains concerned over the uncontrolled use of rapid antigen tests (RATs) in Australia and New Zealand whilst the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 remains generally low.
"However, the RCPA recognises that governments and public health authorities fighting localised outbreaks may need to use RATs for surveillance testing in defined circumstances, in addition to the more accurate mainstream molecular tests.
"Dr. Michael Dray, President of the RCPA, says that by being informed of the limitations of
RATs, the RCPA aims to assist authorities in making their limited use for surveillance testing
in COVID-19 hotspots as effective as possible.
“RATs are less able to detect SARS-CoV-2 and, therefore, should never be used alone for
diagnostic purposes in a symptomatic patient where a false-negative result may provide
unwarranted reassurance and lead to ongoing community transmission.
"It is wrong to automatically assume that mass surveillance through frequent use of RATs may detect SARS-CoV-2 infectionmore (or as) quickly as infrequent use of the superior gold standard Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) molecular test.
"This strategy has some rationale in countries with a high prevalence of the virus, such as in the US and UK , where they did not have the capacity to use the more sensitive PCR tests and where the implications of a false negative or false positive are not as serious.
“There is limited evidence supporting mass surveillance by RATs in Australia and New
Zealand where only a small number of independent evaluations have been performed in
populations with a low prevalence of COVID-19.
"This is why the RCPA continues to urge caution when using RATs and why the College is advocating for an initial limited rollout as part of well-supervised feasibility studies.
"Some studies have in fact shown that the sensitivity of RATs is poor in asymptomatic patients. Whilst the College is open to explore new possibilities, molecular tests remain the preferred method for COVID-19 diagnosis as they are highly sensitive and specific,” said Dr. Dray.
"Dr. Lynette Waring, Chair of the RCPA’s Microbiology Advisory Committee says that RATs
have several impracticalities that must be addressed.
“If RATs are to be used in Australia and New Zealand, there must be caveats in place around
their use. Firstly, all positive RAT tests must be verified by an additional molecular test due to
the high likelihood of false-positive results. As self-collected and self-administered RATs are
not approved for use in Australia or New Zealand, a mid-nasal swab must still be collected,
and the test performed by a trained operator. These operators must wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and have access to suitable waste disposal".
Yet despite this advice (and a lucky gamble that paid off for Harvey and mates), the TGA approved a limited amount of RAT COVID-19 self-tests (home use tests) for supply in Australia on 16th January 2022.
In an Awake News Daily interview exclusively with cardiologist, epidemiologist and SARS-CoV-2 virus expert, Dr. Peter McCullough MD MPH, the RAT testing in Australia poses the following issues -
1) The RAT approved by Australian authorities was approved with only 40 positive patients tested with acute COVID-19 serving as positive controls. This is far too few to be certain the test could adequately identify COVID-19 from individuals acutely sick with the common cold.
2) The RAT test selected ensures variants before September 13, 2021, could be identified. The rapidly spreading OMICRON variant arose in fully vaccinated individuals after this date, and one of the positive control cases in the registrational study could have included OMICRON patients. Thus, the test should be halted until Australians can be confident this test indeed could identify OMICRON in an acutely ill patient.
3) The OMICRON variant is running at 70% fully vaccinated cases in South Africa, Denmark, and the U.S. and is widely expected to occur in the same proportions in Australia as the vaccines continue to fail in stopping COVID-19. Since there are no large randomised clinical trials showing adequate efficacy of any of the vaccines against DELTA or OMICRON for the outcome hospitalization and death, now is a good time to halt the current vaccines and evaluate for safety look towards newer vaccines with better safety and efficacy profiles for limited use among high-risk seniors in the future.