Types of COVID-19 tests

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Last Updated: 21 Jan 2022 9:10am

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Rapid antigen tests (RATs)

Rapid antigen tests (RATs) can detect COVID-19 even before you develop symptoms and can provide a result within 10 to 20 minutes.

You can do the test at home or at the workplace and a medical professional is not required.

RAT kits are available at no cost for anyone who:

  • has cold and flu-like symptoms
  • is a close contact of a COVID-19 confirmed case
  • has been directed by Public Health to use a RAT.

If eligible you can register for a RAT kit via the online request form.

If you are not able to use a RAT, organise a PCR test at a testing clinic or GP clinic, see Where to get tested for more information.

Anyone who has difficulty filling in the online request form can call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 for assistance.

Collection of RAT kits

There are several locations across Tasmania where RAT kits can be collected from. These locations are listed in the online request form.

Collection of RAT kits applies in the following local government areas (LGAs):

Brighton Burnie Central Coast Clarence
Derwent Valley Devonport George Town Glenorchy
Hobart Kentish Kingborough Latrobe
Launceston Sorell West Tamer  

When filling out the online request form you will be asked:

  • why you require a RAT
  • details about yourself
  • the location of where you can collect the RAT kit from

Once approved, a text message (SMS) will be sent confirming the collection and location details. When collecting your RAT kit make sure to wear a face mask, remain in your car and have your confirmation SMS ready to show staff.

Delivery of RAT kits (rural and remote areas)

If you live in a rural or remote area, you will have the option to have your RAT kit sent to you via Australia Post contactless delivery.

Contactless delivery applies in the following local government areas (LGAs):

Break O’Day Central Highlands Circular Head Dorset
Flinders Glamorgan-SpringBay Glamorgan-SpringBay King Island
King Island Northern Midlands Southern Midlands Tasman
Waratah-Wynyard West Coast   

When filling out the online request form you will be asked:

  • why you require a RAT
  • details about yourself
  • what your LGA area is

After selecting the delivery option at the bottom of the collection sites listed, a confirmation message will display confirming details.

Australia Post will send a text message (SMS) on the day of delivery.

Delivery is expected within1 to 2 days after the RAT online request form has been submitted.

Contactless delivery is also available to all eligible Tasmanians who are unable to collect their RAT kit from a collection point, or do not have someone who can collect it on their behalf, due to their personal circumstances including people with a disability.

Rapid antigen tests can be purchased from pharmacies and supermarkets when in stock. The Australian Government are also providing Rapid Antigen Test kits to people who have a concession card, including a health care card, via pharmacies when supply is available.

See Health Care Card for more information.

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. 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.

Children can be tested with a rapid antigen test. This should always be done by, or with the supervision of, an adult. Parents should check the manufactures instructions for use in young children.

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.

Rapid antigen test results

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

  • You must isolate away from others at your home/suitable accommodation
  • You are required to register your positive result by completing online declaration form or call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.
  • Be sure you have the health care and support you need, for more information see testing positive for COVID-19
  • Registration will ensure you can access assistance from Public Health Services and the COVID@home team during your illness.
  • Proof of registration of your result will also be required for financial assistance and leave applications if you are an employee.

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 symptoms, but the rapid test is negative, you may need to repeat the rapid test or get a PCR test from a testing clinic.
  • If you are leaving home to be tested, you must wear a face mask.
  • While you await the PCR test and your results, you must isolate away from others at your home/suitable accommodation.

An invalid RAT result means the test has not worked properly, and you will need to repeat the test, or get a PCR test at a testing clinic.. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have approved some rapid antigen tests for use in Australia. Read more about using the tests and frequently asked questions on the TGA website.

View Factsheet Rapid antigen testing for more information.

PCR tests

COVID-19 testing clinics in Tasmania use PCR (polymerase chain reaction) diagnostic tests. This type of test is highly accurate for detecting an active infection of COVID-19. People who are not able to use a Rapid Antigen Test or are instructed to get a PCR test at a COVID-19 testing clinic can arrange a test by using the online form or by calling the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

Public Health advise the following groups of people should have a PCR test:

  • People with immunodeficiency
    • Hematologic neoplasms: leukaemias, lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndrome
    • Transplant recipients
    • Immunocompromised (primary or acquired)
  • People receiving immunosuppressive therapy
    • Chemo or radiotherapy
    • High dose corticosteroids (more than 20mg per day for 14 days or longer)
    • Immunomodulating biologics and most disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS)
  • People who receive dialysis
  • People who have end stage renal failure
  • People who are not fully vaccinated referred by their GP due to risk factors

When you get tested at a clinic, you will get a PCR test, where SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), can be detected from a sample taken by a health care professional.

After a sample is taken, usually by swabbing the throat and both nostrils, the sample is sent to the laboratory and it takes several hours to generate results.

PCR test results

A PCR test may provide a positive or negative result. Test results are usually provided within 48 hours.

A positive PCR result means that genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected from the sample. This means that it is likely that you have an infection with SARS-CoV-2.

You will be notified of our positive result by Public Health and they will ask you to provide some more details to assist you to access care. See What to do if you test positive.

A negative PCR result means that you are unlikely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 at the time your sample was taken. It is possible that the virus is not detected by the test, even though you have COVID-19. This might happen if you are in the very early stages of the infection.

Continue to practice COVID-safe behaviours and if you have sumptoms and they continue, consult your doctor or call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.