Rapid antigen testing information for businesses

Last updated: 17 January 2022


Rapid antigen tests are a quick way for businesses to detect COVID-19 and protect their workers and customers.

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Register a positive rapid antigen test result

From 12 January, you must report a positive rapid antigen test result:

  • within 24 hours of getting the result.
  • every time you get a positive result.

If you have tested positive and reported your result, you can:

  • quickly understand your relative level of risk based on your personal circumstances
  • access support services available from NSW Health
  • access financial support, such as the Pandemic Disaster Leave Payment.

Register your COVID-19 test result.

How the test works

Rapid antigen tests can pick up the COVID-19 virus very early in the infection, sometimes before symptoms appear.  

Individuals can show no symptoms but still carry the virus and may transmit it to others.

Rapid antigen tests provide results quickly and help reduce the spread of the virus and prevent outbreaks.

Rapid antigen testing involves taking either a saliva sample or nasal swab that is placed into a chemical solution to give a result in 10 to 20 minutes. Instructions need to be followed carefully.

Testing at workplaces

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have approved two different types of rapid antigen testing for workplaces:

  • Point-of-care testing which is implemented on-site and requires medical supervision.
  • Rapid antigen self-testing kits which can be done at home and do not require medical supervision.

Onsite point-of-care screening for workplaces

Some employers, industries, schools and government agencies have implemented point-of-care rapid antigen testing screening on-site and at workplaces that require supervision of a health practitioner. They may engage a third-party provider to manage this process.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published guidance including a checklist to help businesses understand the key considerations for the safe implementation of COVID-19 rapid antigen point-of-care testing in their workplace.

For more information on the guidance contact COVIDtests@tga.gov.au or call 1800 141 144.

Rapid antigen self-testing 

Workplaces may choose to implement a rapid antigen self-testing program which can be done at home and does not require medical supervision.

To support the safe use of rapid antigen self-tests, the TGA works with suppliers and manufacturers of self-tests to ensure:

  • instructions for use are written in a way that all consumers can understand
  • usability testing has been successful
  • self-tests perform satisfactorily against variants.

What rapid antigen test kits can be used?

Devices that have not been approved by the TGA cannot be used in Australia. The TGA website includes a list of all registered rapid antigen test kits.

The TGA website publishes frequently asked questions about the supply of rapid antigen tests, which should be reviewed before proceeding with rapid antigen testing.

Who covers the cost of rapid antigen testing?

Rapid antigen testing is a screening tool that many businesses are already using to support business continuity.

Businesses are responsible for procuring their own test kits, in line with the TGA requirements and, where applicable, are expected to cover the cost of implementing testing on site at workplaces. 

Rapid antigen testing is not covered under the Australian Government's Medicare Benefits Scheme.

How is rapid antigen testing different to other testing?

There are two kinds of tests used by NSW Health to detect COVID-19 – diagnostic tests and screening tests.

A rapid antigen test is a screening test used to identify positive cases quickly. When used regularly, rapid antigen tests identify individuals who may be infectious early on.  

A standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test – also known as a nose and throat swab – is a diagnostic test, and can confirm if someone has COVID-19. These tests take a deep nasal sample and throat sample and are tested in laboratories.

If a worker receives a positive test result

If a worker tests positive on a rapid antigen test they may be a confirmed case:

Test result

Symptoms

Exposure risk

Next step

Yes

Yes

Known or unknown contact

Confirmed case, follow the advice for people testing positive for COVID-19

Yes

Yesor No

Known high risk or household contact

Confirmed case, follow the advice for people testing positive for COVID-19

Yes

No

No known contact

May be a case – take another rapid antigen test in 24 hours or have a PCR test

You do not need to have a rapid antigen test confirmed with a PCR test unless you have:

  • COVID-19 symptoms, but have tested negative on a rapid antigen test AND are at higher risk of severe disease - including if you are pregnant, immunosuppressed, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander, or unvaccinated
  • COVID-19 symptoms and you can’t get a rapid antigen test
  • been asked to have a PCR test from a health care provider.

If a worker gets a negative test result

Household contacts of confirmed cases and those at high risk of exposure must isolate for 7 days.

They should follow the NSW Health advice for people exposed to COVID-19.  

People with symptoms should take another rapid antigen test in 24 hours or have a PCR (nose and throat swab) test. If the second test is positive, they are considered a confirmed case.

Read how to follow the self-isolation rules.

If a worker has symptoms of COVID-19

Do a rapid antigen test and if the result is positive, they will be a confirmed case. Follow the advice for people testing positive for COVID-19.

If someone with symptoms receives a negative rapid antigen test result, please take another rapid antigen test in 24 hours or have a PCR (nose and throat swab) test.

If the second rapid antigen test is positive, they will be considered a confirmed case. If the second test is negative, they should self-isolate until symptoms are gone.

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