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THE International Freight Assistance Mechanism is facilitating the delivery of up to 52 million rapid antigen tests to Australia.

The RATs will be flown in from Asia and the US this month on IFAM-supported commercial flights.

IFAM is a temporary emergency support initiative of the Australian government used to support global air connections during the pandemic.  

It supports international freight movements by aggregating cargo loads, negotiating with airlines, and dealing with partner governments to facilitate clearances and improve transparency of freight costs.

Trade minister Dan Tehan said the IFAM model had made a significant contribution to the nation’s pandemic response by matching limited air freight capacity to critical health imports.

“The IFAM is a great example of the government and the private sector collaborating to support the importing of critical rapid antigen tests for Australians,” he said.

“The IFAM has brought together the best of private sector, military and government logistics expertise to work hand in hand with Australian freight forwarders and airlines to secure space on planes for critical health inputs and premium perishable exports to established markets.

“COVID-19 has presented substantial challenges to global supply chains, making the IFAM’s logistical expertise more valuable than ever.”

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The announcement follows a controversial government mandate encouraging freight, transport, and food distribution workers to return to work after receiving negative RAT results.

Though the decision was intended to support supply chains, some industry players expressed concern that there were not enough RAT kits available to meet testing requirements.

Minister for health and aged care Greg Hunt said supply of RATs has been a universal challenge with increasing demand placing additional pressure on supply chains.

“These kits – destined for supermarkets, pharmacies and medical services across the country – will help Australians juggling the demands of jobs and families with requirements to isolate and undergo rapid testing,” he said.

“RATs are an important way we can keep the community safe while ensuring essential workers can continue to do their jobs.”

Austrade’s IFAM freight controller, air vice-marshal Margaret Staib, said IFAM flights have been vital to supporting the country during tough times.

“IFAM is prioritising medical supplies, medicines and equipment to support Australia’s health response, as well as items deemed in the national interest,” she said.

“The program has been instrumental in reconnecting global supply chains and supporting the import of critical medical supplies, equipment and other goods of national importance.”

In addition to IFAM’s delivery of RATs, Freight & Trade Alliance this week partnered with Protective Health to provide RATs to the Australian market.

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