Rapid antigen tests will be available in Australia very soon. Here's everything you need to know.

In only a matter of weeks, Australians will be able to test for COVID-19 from the comfort of their own homes, after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced it would approve rapid antigen tests from November 1.

The at-home testing kits that have been used overseas for some time now will make detecting coronavirus quick and easy, returning a result in 20 minutes or less. 

Here's everything you need to know about rapid antigen tests before they become available.

What is a rapid antigen test?

A rapid antigen test is a COVID-19 test you can do on yourself that will tell you whether or not you have the virus.

It involves a nasal swab (yep, you sadly have to stick it up your nose the same way they would at a COVID-19 testing clinic) that you place into a chemical solution. 

And instead of waiting 24 hours or more for the results, you will see a positive or negative result in 15 to 20 minutes.

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What are the benefits of rapid antigen testing?

Quite simply, rapid antigen testing is the fastest way to test whether you have the virus. It's especially beneficial for anyone who shows no symptoms but wants to make sure they are COVID-free. 

Rapid antigen tests will become extremely handy once we open up, allowing Australians to ensure they aren't infected before attending events, venues, or travelling overseas.

How accurate is rapid antigen testing?

It has been noted that while rapid antigen tests are quicker, they are not as effective as the tests they use at COVID-19 clinics - which are called PCR tests.

PCR tests are more sensitive than rapid antigen tests and can detect lower levels of the virus, therefore, proving to be more effective. 

So, it's suggested that if you develop symptoms or are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, you should still attend a clinic and get a PCR test.

Additionally, Health Minister Greg Hunt expects that if someone tests positive after using the rapid antigen test, they should go for a PCR test after.

"The early guidance we have is that the expectation would be that if someone is positive they do confirm that with a PCR test," Mr Hunt said on Tuesday.

"But those rules, I should say, are not ones that would be set at a parliamentary level, but rightly set under public health orders at a state level."


When can we get a rapid antigen test?

At the moment, rapid antigen tests can only be used under direct supervision from a qualified health professional. 

The TGA has approved 33 rapid tests for supervised use, and the Health Minister said those suppliers can apply for use-at-home authorisation, with approval expected within a month.  

"Home testing will be available from November 1, obviously subject to individual tests being approved as safe and effective," he said.

Further rules surrounding at-home tests will be determined by state and territory governments. 

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When should you use a rapid antigen test?

You should use a rapid antigen test before attending any place where you might risk spreading COVID-19. For example, before attending a hospital, a sporting event or travelling.

Where can you buy rapid antigen tests from?

It has not been announced where we will be able to purchase at-home tests just yet, however, overseas the rapid antigen tests are sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, so it would be likely that's where we will be able to get them too.

How much does a rapid antigen test cost?

Similarly, we don't know how much they will cost either, but it's suggested an at-home test could cost as little as $10.

In parts of Europe, rapid antigen tests can be purchased from pharmacies and supermarkets for around €5 to €20. In the US, tests cost up to US$50. 

While Singapore has distributed the tests to all households free of charge.

Feature image: Getty.

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