Rapid antigen tests (RATs)

Last Updated: 14 Oct 2022 12:01am

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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

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. You may be asked to show the SMS 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 a RAT kit 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.

Service Tasmania RAT distribution

Concession card holders can access a limited supply of RATs through Service Tasmania centres.

There are 27 Service Tasmania centres located around Tasmania. To find your nearest centre call 1300 13 55 13 or visit their website.

Eligible card holders:

  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Health Care Card
  • Low Income Health Care Card
  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange card

You will need to show:

  • your physical card; or
  • your digital card in the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app

Limits:

  • 10 RATs over a 3 month period
  • Maximum of 5 per month

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) which is then 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. 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 will 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 should stay at home until your symptoms resolve or are much better. .

You should notify your positive test result via the online declaration form or by calling the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738. You should do this immediately, positive RATs cannot be registered after 10 days.

Registration of your result is ensures:

  • Your GP is made aware of your result
  • You can access the care and support you need, including through the COVID@homeplus program
  • financial assistance if you are eligible. Read more on Services Australia website
  • you receive up to date information from Public Health on access to care and ways to keep other safe.
  • Evidence of a positive test result after receiving an SMS message from Public Health
  • Public Health is able to continue to assess and provide information on the risk of COVID-19 in the community

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 stay home away from others at your home/suitable accommodation while you continue to have symptoms.

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 on the TGA website.