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.
HOW DO I USE A RAT?
Read and carefully follow the instructions included with your RAT. Using 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.
NOTE: The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued the recommendation to avoid eating, drinking, smoking, brushing your teeth or chewing gum, for 10 to 30 minutes before collecting saliva for a home-use COVID-19 RAT as it may produce an incorrect result. Refer to the instructions provided with your test kit for the recommended timing. 3
WHEN SHOULD I USE A RAT?
You should get a RAT if you:
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.
RATs are approximately 80 percent accurate in detecting COVID-19 infection in people with symptoms. A negative RAT does not guarantee you are not infectious. If your RAT is negative and you have been in close contact with a positive case and/or you are experiencing symptoms, re-test yourself within 24 or 48 hours or get a PCR test5.
If your RAT test is positive, you must isolate at home and let health authorities know in accordance with your local state or territory requirements.
It is mandatory to report a positive result. Failure to do so can lead to penalties or imprisonment.
You can report your positive test result to your local health authority online or by phone.
WA – Register your result online here or call the WA COVID-19 Hotline on 13 COVID (13 26843).
NT - Register your result online here or call the NT COVID-19 Hotline on 1800 490 484.
ACT– Register your result online here or call 02 5124 6500 between 8am and 6pm.
NSW – Register your result online here or call Service NSW on 13 77 88.
QLD – Register your result online here or call the QLD Covid-19 Hotline on 134 COVID (134 268).
SA – Register your result online here or call the SA COVID-19 Information Line on 1800 253 787 (8am to 8pm, 7 days).
TAS – Register your result online here or call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 between 8:00am and 6:00pm.
VIC – Register your result online here or call the VIC Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398.
MY RAT IS INVALID/INCONCLUSIVE
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:6
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.COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests (for home use). Aust Govt Dept of Health. Last updated 02 Feb 2022. Available from URL: https://www.tga.gov.au/covid-19-rapid-antigen-self-tests-home-use
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
5. Cook H. Experts urge caution on RAT accuracy as watchdog probes test kit complaints. 7 Feb 2022. Available from URL: https://www.smh.com.au/national/experts-urge-caution-on-rat-accuracy-as-watchdog-probes-test-kit-complaints-20220203-p59tgj.html
6. 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