Guide to Rapid COVID-19 Tests
Rapid COVID-19 tests are a convenient way to test for potential viral infection in a matter of minutes. By testing the infectiousness level of an individual, rapid testing can help identify carriers and reduce the spread of the virus. As rapid testing becomes more commonplace in Australia, we explain everything you need to know about what a rapid test is and how they work.
As the only retailer of COVID-19 rapid test kits in Australia, MedCart offers antigen and point of care testing (PoCT).
What is a COVID-19 Rapid Test?
Rapid antigen testing is a point of care diagnostic tool to help detect the COVID-19 virus in asymptomatic people and help reduce the spread.
Rapid COVID-19 testing has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and has been used successfully in the USA and UK. Recently, a range of rapid COVID-19 tests was approved by the TGA for use in Australia.
MedCart offers leading suppliers of rapid tests for use by registered by TGA.
Currently, the TGA stipulated that rapid COVID-19 tests available in Australia must be supervised, which means no home testing is available yet! Instead, antigen tests should be administered by registered medical practitioners, paramedics, or trained personnel. This ensures all positive results are reported accurately and as soon as possible.
However, from November 1, Australians will be able to purchase rapid tests for at-home use.
Additionally, recording a negative test on a rapid COVID-19 test does not mean there is zero presence of the virus in your system, and all COVID-19 safety measures, including masks, social distancing, and personal hygiene, should be followed in line with state and federal government regulations.
What is the point of care testing (PoCT)
Point of care testing (PoCT) is a test administered by a health care professional or trained personnel in the patient’s presence. This means testing that isn’t sent to an off-site location, like a lab, for diagnostics.
PoCT locations may include:
- At your home
- Sports clinics
- Medical clinics
- Aged care facilities
How is a COVID-19 Rapid Test Done?
Like a PCR test, rapid COVID-19 tests take a throat or nasal sample to test for viral proteins. COVID-19 tests that detect viral genetic materials (RNA) may be more accurate than rapid tests but can take hours or days to determine a result and can only be processed by experts, often in a laboratory.
Rapid tests apply the swab to a chemical solution to detect viral proteins that indicate a COVID-19 infection and can be performed by non-experts. While rapid COVID-19 tests cannot detect low virus levels, they can detect high infection levels and should be followed up with a more comprehensive test.
Rapid tests detect the infectiousness of people with suspected COVID-19, helping identify contagious individuals and slow the spread of the virus. If you are showing any symptoms of COVID-19, you should not use a rapid antigen test and immediately get a PCR test from a clinic.
Antibody tests are also available. These tests take a sample of blood to test for COVID-19 antibodies. These can provide an insight into whether you have had the virus previously but does not detect active infection. If you suspect an active infection, get tested through an RNA or antigen test as soon as possible.
Who can access rapid COVID-19 tests
The current guidelines on rapid testing state that employers, industries, schools, and governments can implement rapid testing administered by approved personnel. Rapid testing can be a valuable tool for essential workers, ensuring any potential COVID-19 cases are caught early.
If a worker records a positive rapid test, they should:
- Immediately isolate.
- Get a confirmatory PCR test as soon as possible.
The TGA has provided further guidelines for businesses considering rapid COVID-19 testing.
How Fast is the Rapid COVID-19 Test?
As the name suggests, rapid COVID-19 tests can indicate an active COVID-19 infection quickly. While a regular PCR test can take hours or days to get an accurate diagnosis, a rapid test can be done within minutes.
Positive results from a rapid COVID-19 test indicate high infection levels and should be followed up with an immediate confirmatory PCR test.
Rolling out Rapid Tests
Despite rising in popularity overseas in the USA and UK, rapid testing is still a new frontier in Australia. Twenty-eight rapid tests have been approved for use in Australia, with MedCart listing Australia's leading suppliers .
Australia’s rollout of COVID-19 rapid tests are slightly stricter than examples set by other countries, such as tighter restrictions on supervised tests. However, from November 1, Australians will be able to access rapid tests at home.
The TGA has advised that state and territory governments will determine further rules around at-home testing. Recording a positive result at home should always be followed immediately with a PCR test at a clinic.
Types of Rapid Tests
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 tests detect the virus’s genetic material (RNA) instead of the proteins. PCR tests are generally more accurate than other tests available and have been considered the ‘gold standard’ of COVID-19 testing.
PCR testing is the recommended test if you are symptomatic and are experiencing cold and flu-like symptoms such as coughing, fever, and runny nose. Like rapid antigen tests, PCR tests use a fluid swab from your nose and throat to test for viral genetic material.
Rapid Antigen Test
Rapid antigen tests detect viral proteins and are a vital method of catching signs of COVID-19 before you become symptomatic. Regular antigen testing can help slow the spread of the virus by identifying potential contagious cases before it can become widespread in the community.
While rapid COVID-19 tests can detect most cases of COVID-19, it is not at accurate at detecting low-levels of viral load and is not a replacement for the slower, though generally more accurate, PCR test.
If you are an employer of essential workers, rapid antigen testing can keep you, your employees, and your customers safe. Rapid antigen tests can be purchased online, or contact our team for further information.