A Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) is a test that checks if you are likely to have COVID-19. This test can be done at home, by yourself.1 Instructions need to be followed carefully.
RAT test kits are designed to be simple to use and painless. RATs can pick up the COVID-19 virus very early in the infection, sometimes before symptoms appear.2 A RAT involves taking either a sample of your own saliva or nasal swab. This is then placed into a chemical solution to give a result. In most cases, a RAT will provide a result within 15 to 30 minutes.
You must get a RAT if you:
You should get a RAT if:
A PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is another type of test used to diagnose infection with the COVID-19 virus. It is performed in a testing clinic by a health professional who takes a sample, usually by swabbing your throat and both nostrils, and sends it to a laboratory for processing.
While a RAT is easy to use and provides a quick result, a PCR test is more sensitive and may be necessary if you are unable to access or use a RAT or if you have been advised to get a PCR test by your local health authority or GP.
In most cases you do not need a PCR test to confirm a positive RAT result. If your RAT returns a positive result, and you do not have symptoms and you are not a contact of someone who has COVID-19, check the requirements regarding PCR testing with your local health authority.
Yes. RATs are very accurate when used by people with symptoms or COVID-19 contacts.
If your RAT test is positive, you must isolate at home and let health authorities know. Call your local health department, or the National Coronavirus Helpline (1800 020 080) to register as a COVID-19 positive case.3 Most people with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms. For health advice, call your GP. Call Triple Zero (000) or go to an emergency department if you have severe symptoms.
If your RAT test result is invalid/inconclusive, you will need to do another RAT on a new test kit. You may have collected your saliva or nasal swab incorrectly or the test may have some manufacturing defects. If your second result is also invalid/inconclusive, you will need to get a standard COVID-19 PCR test.
RATs are available to purchase at participating pharmacies, supermarkets, and other retail outlets. You can access up to 10 free RATs from pharmacies over a 3-month period (maximum of 5 in a month) if you have a government-issued concession card:4
1. Rapid Antigen Test for COVID-19. QLD Govt Australia. Last updated 8 Jan 2022. Available from URL: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/stay-informed/rapid-antigen-test
2. Rapid Antigen Testing information for businesses. NSW Govt. Last updated 10 Jan 2022. Available from URL: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/business/rapid-antigen-testing-information-for-businesses.
3. Testing for COVID-19. Australian Govt Dept of Health. Last updated 07 Jan 2022. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/health-alerts/covid-19/testing
4. Testing for COVID-19. Australian Govt Dept of Health. Last updated 07 Jan 2022. Available from URL: https://www.health.gov.au/health-alerts/covid-19/testing