Rapid antigen tests (RATs)

Last Updated: 05 May 2022 3:43pm

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Rapid antigen tests (RATs) are quick, convenient and can detect COVID-19 even before you develop symptoms. They are simple to use, and you can do the test yourself at home or anywhere you feel comfortable.

RATs are quick and can provide a result within 10 to 20 minutes.

If you are required to get tested and cannot access or use a RAT, you can get a PCR test at a testing clinic.

Some people, such as those who are receiving immunosuppressive therapy, are recommended to have a PCR test instead of a RAT. Further information is available at PCR testing.

Who can get a free RAT

If you are required to get tested, RAT kits are available at no cost.
Get tested if you:

How to request a RAT

A SMS (text) will be sent confirming where you can collect your kit. This message will need to be displayed on arrival in order to collect the RAT kit.

If you are unable to collect, you may be able to get your RAT kit delivered to your home. When you submit your request, the online form will confirm that your RAT will be delivered, you will then receive a text message (SMS) after your RAT kit has been delivered.

You can request for multiple people in your household. A request form is required for each person who needs to get tested.

If you need help filling in the online request form, someone can complete it on your behalf, or you can call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 for assistance.

Testing for children under 2 years of age

You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of Rapid Antigen Tests. Some RATs are not recommended for use in children under 2 years of age.

View the full list of RATs approved in Australia and links to manufacturer’s instruction on the TGA website.

Government support for accessing RATs

The Australian Government is also providing Rapid Antigen Test kits to people who have a concession card, including a Health Care Card. They can be accessed from pharmacies when stock is available.

See Services Australia website for more information.

Isolate until you take your test

While you wait to get a RAT and take your test:

  • you must isolate
  • you must stay at home
  • do not go to work or school.

Read more about isolation.

If you become very unwell or have difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Let the operator know if you have COVID-19 symptoms or if you are in quarantine as close contact.

Taking a rapid antigen test

Rapid antigen testing involves a nasal or throat swab (using a small cotton bud) that is placed into a chemical solution.

There are different rapid antigen tests available, so it is very important that you closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

All tests are single use only. Once you have used the test, you must dispose of it as per the manufacturer’s instructions. The RAT cassette and parts used to complete the test are not recyclable - they should be disposed of carefully.

If disposal instructions are not provided, place the test and swab into a small, sealable plastic bag. Place the sealed test and swab bag into another plastic bag, seal the second bag, and then dispose of it with your household rubbish. The instructions and any outer packaging that is not used as part of the test may be recyclable. Check your council recycling guidelines.

Children can be tested with a rapid antigen test. This should always be done or supervised by an adult. Parents should check the manufacturer’s instructions for use in young children, and if there is an age limit or you are not comfortable, arrange a PCR test at a testing clinic.

If you are required to get tested and request a rapid antigen test from the Tasmanian Government, you may receive one of five brands of RAT kits.

Some steps for completing a test are different for each brand, so please carefully follow the instructions contained within the test kit you are given.

InnoScreen test instructions OR InnoScreen video demonstration

CareStart test instructions OR CareStart video demonstration

Flowflex test instructions OR Flowflex video demonstration

RightSign test instructions OR RightSign video demonstration

Panbio test instructions OR Panbio video demonstration

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 you use a saliva test – do not eat or drink for 10 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.
  6. Place the exact amount of solution into the indicator as advised.
  7. Read the results at the exact time recommended.

Download an instructional guide on how to take a nasal rapid antigen test.

Rapid antigen test results

A rapid antigen test (RAT) can provide a positive, negative, or invalid result.

Positive RAT result

A positive RAT result means that proteins from the COVID-19 virus have been detected in your test. This means that you have COVID-19.

If you get a positive RAT result, you do not need to verify it with a PCR test. You are a confirmed case and must isolate away from others at your home/suitable accommodation. However, if you have already had COVID-19, you need to get a PCR test to confirm if you have a new infection of COVID-19. Read more about testing after having COVID-19.

You must notify your positive test result via the online declaration form or by calling the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

Registration of your result is required under the Public Health Act 1997 and ensures you can access:

Negative RAT result

A negative RAT result means that the proteins from the COVID-19 virus have not been detected. This means that it is unlikely that there is a COVID-19 infection present, and you are unlikely to have COVID-19.

If you have a negative RAT result but you continue to have symptoms, you should arrange a PCR test from a testing clinic or repeat the RAT with a new kit the next day. Continue to isolate away from others at your home/suitable accommodation.

Invalid RAT result

An invalid RAT result means the test has not worked properly, and you will need to repeat the test with a new kit or get a PCR test at a testing clinic.

Read more about using the tests and frequently asked questions on the TGA website.