Let's talk RATs and how to ensure an accurate result

With Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) now an integral part of our COVID-19 response, it is important that you know where to get them, when to use them and how to ensure an accurate result.

Type of test – PCR or RAT

There are two types of tests that detect COVID-19 in Australia:

  • a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) which can be done at home and may also be used at a testing clinic
  • a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test which is only used at testing clinics.

Which test do I need?

Rapid Antigen Tests are now the primary testing method.

You must get tested using a RAT kit when you:

  • have COVID-19 symptoms
  • are a close contact
  • need a negative test to leave quarantine.

If you can’t get a RAT kit, you can get a PCR test at a testing clinic for these reasons. You can also use RAT kits if you need to be tested before travelling or before attending a crowded event, social gathering or visiting vulnerable people.

At home RAPID test
COVID test

Where do I get a RAT kit?

We understand that RAT kits can be hard to track down due to a nationwide shortage. To take the pressure off you a bit and help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are providing two free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) to every staff member and supported employee for their personal use.

#WeGiveARats

Schools will have limited supplies of RAT tests for children who develop symptoms at school in QLD. State governments are implementing COVID-safe back to school plans for QLD, NSW and VIC.

You can also buy RAT kits in retail shops, supermarkets, chemists and online.

Free RAT kits from community pharmacies are available for anyone that holds an eligible Commonwealth concession card.

The testing process

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has released a fact sheet on what rapid antigen tests are, how they can be used at home and what to do when you get a result.

Rapid antigen tests can detect COVID-19 even before you develop symptoms, can be used at home or the workplace and can provide a result within 15 to 30 minutes.

There are three types of RATs (saliva, oral fluid or nasal). Always read the instructions that come with the kit before using it.

Refer to the TGA website to ensure that your RAT kit is approved by the TGA to check its clinical sensitivity and for specific ‘how to use’ instructions.

RAT test kits vary in clinical sensitivity based on its positive per cent agreement (PPA) – the proportion of individuals that produced a positive test result using a COVID-19 rapid antigen self-test, compared to those with a positive result by PCR test.

Some types of RAT kits can be used to test children, but not all are suitable for young children and babies. Adults should always do the tests for children or supervise children who are using a kit.

Can I eat or drink before taking a rapid antigen test?

No, at least if the rapid antigen test requires you to collect your saliva instead of a nasal swab.

The TGA updated its guidelines for taking a RAT at home on Wednesday, February 2nd. It said that you shouldn’t “eat, drink, smoke, brush your teeth or chew gum” for 10 to 30 minutes before taking a saliva-based rapid antigen test because it could give you an inaccurate result.

Do not before saliva test

Steps to get an accurate result using a rapid antigen test

  1. Check the expiry date – make sure it is valid.
  2. Some tests need to be at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to use – plan ahead.
  3. If you use a nasal swab – blow your nose before swabbing. If your test involves collecting saliva – do not eat or drink for 10 to 30 minutes before collecting the sample.
  4. Avoid contaminating the sample – do not touch the area where the sample is collected.
  5. Follow the instructions on how to collect the sample. Find your RAT kit manual and video tutorial here.
  6. Place the exact amount of solution into the indicator as advised.
  7. Read the results at the exact time recommended.

The RAT kit will show a positive, negative, or inconclusive result.

Strip test results

If the result is positive, it is important that you follow the steps:

STEP 1: Call the Endeavour Foundation HOTLINE 1800 983 006

STEP 2: Call your direct manager

STEP 3: Isolate at home for 7 days from the date of the test (note: you DO NOT need another test on day 6)

If your symptoms get worse call your GP or 13 HEALTH (134 325).
Only call Triple Zero (000) in an emergency or if you have difficulty in breathing.

Prior to returning to work you must be symptom-free for 48hrs and obtain a Senior Leader Clearance. For more resources, see our Infection and Isolation response page.

Not using the test properly may produce an incorrect result. If the result is inconclusive or invalid, repeat the test on a new kit.

How do I dispose of my test?

All tests are SINGLE USE only. Once you have used the test, you must dispose of it as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Some tests come with a plastic bag to place the contents of the test into (including the swab). This bag is then placed into another bag for disposal with your household rubbish.

If no bags are provided you can place the used items from the test into a small plastic bag that can be sealed. This bag should be put into another bag that can be sealed and disposed of with your household rubbish.

Wash your hands carefully after completing the test and disposing of the test kit contents.

I have a question…

If you have any questions about RAT kits, please speak with your leader or call the COVID-19 Hotline on 1800 983 006 for advice.

The TGA also has a Q&A page for frequently asked questions.