Rapid antigen self-tests for community (COVID-19)
Rapid antigen tests are a quick way to detect COVID-19. They are an additional tool to help to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
- Rapid antigen tests are less accurate than a standard PCR (nose and throat swab) test so it is important to know when you can use them and what you to do if you get a positive result.
- If you have any COVID-19 symptoms you should have a standard PCR test performed at a testing clinic. This is the only test that can confirm you have COVID-19.
When can I do a rapid antigen test?
Examples of when you could consider using a rapid antigen test include:
- before attending a gathering with people in crowded indoor or outdoor places e.g. family gatherings, weddings, funerals, and night clubs
- before visiting a person vulnerable to infection, such as an elderly person or a person who is immunocompromised
- before going to a high risk setting e.g. aged care facility or disability group home
- returning from a place with a high number of COVID-19 cases.
Information for school students is provided by the Department of Education.
You can use rapid antigen testing whether you are fully vaccinated or not.
Rapid antigen tests have different sensitivities for detecting COVID-19 depending on the test type and how often they are used.
They are more accurate when you do the test regularly. For the most effective screening you are advised to do two tests within a week. Many rapid antigen testing kits contain two tests.
When should I get a standard PCR (nose and throat swab) test?
You should get a standard PCR (nose and throat swab) test at a COVID-19 testing clinic in NSW if you:
- have done a rapid antigen test and have a positive result (even if a repeat rapid antigen test is negative)
- have even mild COVID-19 symptoms
- are a close or casual contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case
- have been told to get a test by NSW Health or another healthcare practitioner.
After your PCR test you must immediately self-isolate, including from your household members.
Follow the self-isolation rules.
Where can I buy a rapid antigen test kit?
You can buy a rapid antigen testing kit from pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail outlets, including online. They cost around $10-$15.
The Australian Government's regulatory agency, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), oversees the conditions of supply for rapid antigen test kits.
For your own safety you should only use a self-test kit that has been approved by the TGA. The TGA website has a list of all home use tests approved by the TGA, along with a copy of the manufacturer’s instructions for each test.
A consumer fact sheet is available on the TGA website.
More detailed information on rapid antigen self-tests can be found on the TGA website.
How do I use a rapid antigen test kit?
There are different self-test kits available. You should follow the instructions provided with the test.
All tests are for a single use only. This means you can only use each test once. Do not use a test more than once or try to use one test on multiple people.
Can rapid antigen test kit be used for children?
Yes. Tests for children should always be done or supervised by an adult. Some kits cannot be used on young children and babies. Please carefully follow any instructions provided with the test kit if using the test on a child or baby.
Rapid antigen testing results
NSW Health only collects and reports PCR (nose and throat swab) test results. You do not need to report the result of your rapid antigen test to NSW Health.
If you get a positive rapid antigen test result
You could have COVID-19. You must:
- immediately get a standard PCR (nose and throat swab) test at a NSW testing clinic to confirm the result of your rapid antigen test
- self-isolate until you get a negative test result.
If you get a negative rapid antigen test result
You are unlikely to have COVID-19. You do not need to do anything unless required to by your school or employer.
If you receive a negative rapid antigen test result but develop COVID-19 symptoms at any time, even if mild, you should immediately get a standard PCR (nose and throat swab) test and self-isolate until you get a negative result.
If you get an inconclusive or invalid rapid antigen test result
If you have another test kit available, follow the instructions to repeat the test. If you don’t have a test kit available, attend a testing clinic for a standard PCR (nose and throat swab) test.
How do I store and dispose of a rapid antigen test?
Store the test kit in a safe, dry, cool space. Refer to the test kit instructions.
Disposal will vary according to information provided with the test instructions. Some tests come with a plastic bag to place the contents of the test into (including the swab).
This bag is then placed into another bag for disposal with the household rubbish. Test kit materials are not recyclable.
If no bags are provided you can place the used items from the test into a small plastic bag that can be sealed. This bag should be put into another bag that can be sealed and disposed of in the household rubbish.
Wash your hands carefully after completing the test and disposing of the test kit contents.
- Rapid antigen testing fact sheet
- Rapid antigen testing information for businesses
- Information for individuals to perform COVID-19 rapid antigen testing at home
- Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) QandA's on COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests
- Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) factsheet on COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests
- COVID-19 self-tests approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration