Rapid antigen testing is on the rise in Australia as Covid cases rise to new record highs, with classic PCR tests putting enormous pressure on the healthcare system.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday highlighted that RAT kits will have to become an important part of the nation’s fight against the Omicron variant, with coronavirus infections now rising above 18,000 a day for the first time.
Test clinics and laboratories that process the results are completely exceeded in light of the supermutant strain, as those wishing to have a PCR inoculation are forced to wait hours in line and another four days to receive the result.
The National Cabinet will on Thursday hold urgent negotiations on Australia’s transition away from PCR tests to the widespread use of RAT kits in pharmacies, which are slightly less reliable but which show results in around 15 minutes.
The test kits at home have been in widespread use in countries including the UK and US for about a year, but the Australian health authorities have so far been reluctant to make them part of the national strategy.
Here’s everything you need to know about the RAT kits, where to buy them and how to use them.
Test clinics and the laboratories that process the results are completely overrun (Sydney’s Bondi Covid clinic in the picture) in light of the supermutant strain, as those wishing to have a PCR inoculation are forced to wait hours in line and another four days for to receive the result
WHEN SHOULD YOU GET A PCR TEST FOR COVID?
With enormous pressure on Australia’s healthcare system from recorded Covid cases, test clinics are overwhelmed along with the laboratories that process the results.
The health authorities have called for only the follow-up groups to receive a PCR test.
* Anyone who has Covid-19 symptoms such as a sore throat
* Anyone who has been considered close contact
* Anyone who has received a positive fast-antigen test
* Anyone who has been to a superspreader site that the health authorities have informed about is a high risk of transmission
WHERE DO YOU GET RAT KITS AND HOW MUCH DO THEY COST?
RAT kits are sold at pharmacies, pharmacies, supermarkets and online throughout Australia and can be purchased by anyone for around $ 15.
Larger boxes that sell packages of two, five or 10 will be more expensive depending on the brand.
But if you rush out to buy one, you may have great difficulty finding them, as the soaring demand has caused the kits to fly down from the shelves and most suppliers are sold out.
The NSW government expects 20 million RATs by the end of January with 30 million more on the way after that.
The Federal Department of Health has raised about $ 10 million for use in geriatric care centers and is in the process of ordering an additional $ 50 million.
Other states are also struggling to get their hands on more RATs, but it may take a few weeks before they are on the shelves.
The test kits at home have been in widespread use in places like the UK and US for about a year, but the Australian health authorities have so far been reluctant to make them part of the national strategy. Pictured: Covid test in Sydney
If you are in a hurry to buy one at the moment, you may have great difficulty finding them as the increasing demand has caused the kits to fly down from the shelves with most suppliers sold out (pictured, a pharmacy in Sydney)
ARE RAT-KÆT ACCURATE, AND HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
Not all RAT sets are created equal. Some are more accurate than others, but overall, the kits can be very effective in diagnosing Covid.
While PCR tests are almost 100 percent accurate, the complex chemical process required to determine a result currently takes laboratory workers about four days due to the sheer amount of samples.
By comparison, the results of a RAT kit can be revealed in 10-20 minutes for most brands.
To distinguish the most effective brands from duds, the Therapeutic Goods Administration underwent a wealth of studies conducted on the manufacturers.
The absolute minimum standard required for RAT kits to be sold in Australia is 80 percent clinical sensitivity, which sees the product labeled with ‘acceptable sensitivity’.
Kits with 90 percent efficiency are considered ‘high sensitivity’ and brands that have over 95 percent labeled ‘very high sensitivity’.
There are only 15 brands that have met these criteria with only five RAT sets given the “very high sensitivity” mark.
To distinguish the most effective brands from duds, the Therapeutic Goods Administration reviewed a wealth of studies conducted on manufacturers (pictured, a Covid test kit in Sydney)
The absolute minimum standard required for RAT kits to be sold in Australia is 80 percent clinical sensitivity, which sees the product labeled ‘acceptable sensitivity’ (pictured, a RAT test in use)
WHAT ARE THE 15 RAT KITS APPROVED FOR USE IN AUSTRALIA?
VERY HIGH SENSITIVITY – 95% CLINIC SENSITIVE
All tests Sars-CoV-2 Antigen Quick Test – (Nose Inoculation) – China
Lyher Novel Coronavirus Antigen Test Kit (China)
OnSite Covid-19 Ag Self Test (Nose Inoculation) – USA
Panbio Covid-19 Antigen Self-Test (Nose Inoculation) – Germany
V-Chek Covid-19 Antigen Test (Saliva) – China
HIGH SENSITIVITY – 90 PERCENT CLINIC SENSITIVE
All tests Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test (Oral Fluid) – China
Hough Covid-19 Home Test (Nose Inoculation) – China
My Covid Test Antigen Rapid Test – (Oral Fluid) – China
Orawell Covid-19 Ag Rapid Test (Spit) – China
RightSign Covid-19 Antigen Quick Test Cassette (Nose Inoculation) – China
Testsealabs Covid-19 Antigen Test Cassette (Nasal Swab) – China
ACCEPTABLE SENSITIVITY – 80 PERCENT CLINIC SENSITIVE
Roche Sars-CoV-2 Antigen Self-Test (Nose Inoculation) – South Korea
InnoScreen Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test (Nose Inoculation) – Australia
Ecotest Covid-19 Antigen Saliva Test Kit (Saliva) – China
CareStart Covid-19 Antigen Home Test (Nose Inoculation) – USA
HOW AND WHEN SHOULD I USE THEM AND IS IT SAFE FOR CHILDREN?
The kits are administered much like PCR tests.
A person can test themselves by wiping the inside of his nose and then following the instructions on the box to get a reading on the device.
Some sets use saliva samples instead, which can be a better option for older or young children, as nasal swabs can sometimes be painful.
Health authorities say the kits are completely safe for anyone of any age to use, but those under 12 should have their test performed by a parent or guardian.
A person can test themselves by wiping the inside of his nose and then following the instructions on the box to get a reading on the device (stock image)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday noted that RAT kits will have to become an important part of the nation’s fight against the Omicron variant with coronavirus infections, which are now rising above 18,000 a day. Pictured: Long Covid test queues in Melbourne
The need to administer a home test will vary from person to person, with some workers in high-risk sectors having to use a RAT kit every day as a condition of employment.
However, a positive result should be confirmed with a PCR test, as false positives can sometimes occur.
Likewise, false negatives can also occur in the early stages after becoming infected, with RATs much better at detecting the virus in symptomatic cases with high viral load.
This is why experts say that if you have been exposed to the virus, it is recommended to administer RATs over several days.