Queensland residents are desperately searching for COVID-19 rapid antigen tests as authorities admit major shortage of sets

Health authorities have highlighted wider use of rapid antigen testing (RAT) in Queensland in light of widespread COVID-19 transmission, but admit the state has a major shortage of kits.

The movement has been backed by an infectious disease expert, who urged those attending events and workplaces to use RATs in advance to try to control infection.

Interstate visitors who had to register a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before traveling to Queensland were told yesterday from January 1 that they could use RAT instead of the much slower, but more accurate, PCR or laboratory tests.

In confirming the announcement, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said he had been misled into believing the antigen sets were available in New South Wales and were reliable.

But he admitted the sets were “hard” to get hold of in Queensland.

And he acknowledged that despite the lack of supply, the tests were likely to become more widely used in a variety of Queensland environments as widespread transmission took place.

“They are not as sensitive as PCR, so they may miss some positive cases, but in the context of widespread transmission, this is where they start to become useful.

“And we’re entering that phase now.”

RATs have been available in chemists and supermarkets since November and cost around $ 25 for a pack of two or $ 50 for a pack of five.

The RAT uses what has been described as a miniature chemistry kit to analyze a self-administered nasal swab or saliva sample for the presence of the virus causing COVID-19.

The test can be performed at home and results are obtained within 20 minutes.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved 15 different brands of tests for home use with sensitivity assessments ranging from acceptable at a rate of 80 percent “positive percent agreement” (PPA) to very high sensitivity, which gives results of more than 95 per. cent PPA.

RATs useful for traveling or attending events

Infectious disease expert Paul Griffin called for wider use of RATs in Queensland.

“Personally, we should encourage people, for the purpose of screening before high-risk incidents, really should consider a quick antigen test,” he said.

“We know for symptomatic people that we want them to get a PCR test, but for screening people for travel or to attend an event or somewhere else, they need to do a quick antigen test,” he said. .

Close-up of hands holding rapid antigen test for COVID-19.
There are concerns about the delivery of rapid antigen tests.(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

Associate Professor Griffin said those who use the fast antigen sets should test more than once to make sure they were negative.

He said even the best tests could still have 5 percent false negatives.

“Therefore, they will never replace laboratory tests. These do not perform the same as the PCR tests, and therefore we recommend a series of tests. If you do two or three tests over two or three days, it addresses sensitivity issues.

“We encourage people to do more than one, because if you get the negative fast antigen test and are sure of it, but you’re positive, then there are big consequences.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday that the federal government had secured millions of tests for the national stock.

Chemists and supermarkets sell kits, but finding something yesterday proved almost impossible for Queensland residents and interstate guests with supplies, almost all of which were sold out.

‘Everywhere was sold out’

Kaz Plumridge with his two sons
Kaz Plumridge said she has not seen her sons, Rhys (center) and Arthur, since Mother’s Day.(Delivered: Kaz Plumridge)

Kaz Plumridge planned to fly to Queensland from Canberra on January 12 for her son’s graduation ceremony – she is relieved that she does not have to take a PCR test, but was unsuccessful in tracking a RAT.

“I started looking on Monday because we knew it was going to happen, or heard rumors – called around all the supermarkets, chemists within probably a 50-mile radius of where I live, and everywhere was sold out,” she said.

“Like I said to my son last night, ‘somehow I want to be there.’ my life. It’s a huge thing for my son and I really do not want to miss his graduation ceremony. “

Close-up of a box containing a rapid antigen test (RAT) for COVID.
A box containing a rapid antigen test (RAT) for COVID. (ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

It was a similar story in Brisbane.

At Ashgrove in the city’s inner northern suburbs, pharmacist Shahin Ardalan said he had received up to 200 phone calls a day from people who wanted to get the test.

Sir. Ardalan said they did not have any of the tests, but were told if they ordered some from China, they would probably arrive in about fourteen days.

“I had to get my wife to write on the website that we did not have any. It has been 600 calls,” he said.

“We can not get hold of them. I have tried for three days.

“I think I will order some if demand is to continue.”

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How to take a quick antigen test

Another pharmacist in central Brisbane said they were hoping to receive a batch of tests on January 7.

The pharmacist, who asked not to be named because he did not want to be inundated with demand, said they had been able to get their order early because they were based in a hospital.

He said they had also ordered the highest quality type of test, but often the level of accuracy was affected by how carefully people used the set.

“If the nose grafting is done professionally, you get 100 percent accuracy, but if it is not done professionally, it is about 96 percent accurate,” he said.

“You must read the instructions on the package.”

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