It’s no secret COVID-19 infections exploded in Australia over the holiday period. Case numbers have skyrocketed to a point where lining up for a standard PCR test is no longer an option for a lot of us. In lieu of that, the federal government is recommending Australians use a rapid antigen test (RAT).
The problem is rapid antigen tests are as rare as gold right now which makes finding one about as big a challenge as getting a PCR test. Still, some RATs are out there and we’ve got some tips to help you find them.
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What is a rapid antigen test and when should you use one?
A rapid antigen test is a self-testing kit that allows users to test themselves for the COVID-19 virus at home.
The tests come with detailed instructions and generally require you to take your own nasal or saliva swab. You then only need to wait around 10-20 minutes for a result.
The issue with RAT’s is that they’re not as reliable as a PCR test and they’ll usually only pick up a positive result when a person’s viral load is high.
It’s generally recommended you get a PCR test when you’re showing COVID symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who is positive, but with the testing situation what it is right now, a rapid antigen test can be a helpful indicator if you want to quickly check if you have the virus or to satisfy interstate testing requirements.
Which rapid antigen test is the best?
Any RAT that has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is safe to use. However, they are split into ranks of sensitivity.
In accordance with the World Health Organisation guidelines, RATs must have a clinical specificity of at least 80%. The TGA has split test sensitivity into categories which are defined as:
- Acceptable sensitivity – clinical sensitivity greater than 80% PPA
- High sensitivity – clinical sensitivity greater than 90% PPA
- Very high sensitivity – clinical sensitivity greater than 95% PPA
The TGA’s website has a breakdown of each rapid antigen test and its sensitivity, but if you’re only after the best these are the ones included in the ‘very high sensitivity’ bracket.
- All Test SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (Nasal Swab)
- Cellife Covid-19 Antigen Test Cassette (Nasal Swab)
- Clungene Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test (Nasal Swab)
- Flowflex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (Nasal Swab)
- LYHER Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Antigen Rapid Test (Nasal Swab)
- OnSite COVID-19 Ag Self Test (Nasal Swab)
- Panbio COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test (Nasal Swab)
- Rapid SARS-COV-2 Antigen Test Card Self-test (Nasal Swab)
- V-Chek COVID-19 Antigen Saliva Test (Saliva)
You can find a full list of all RATs and their sensitivities on the TGA website.
Where can you buy a rapid antigen test?
When in stock, rapid antigen tests can be found at:
- Supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles (in-store and online)
- Pharmacies and chemists (in-store and online)
- Valid online suppliers (eg. Healthy Life, Rapid Proof)
The Australian government is yet to make rapid antigen tests free for everyone (there are some exceptions) so expect to fork out at least $15 per test if you can find one.
Where to buy a rapid antigen test in Sydney and Melbourne
If you’re located in Sydney or Melbourne specifically, grocery delivery app SEND has announced it has now acquired some RATs. Stock has been selling out rapidly so you’ll have to be lucky to score some.
The app boasts a delivery time of 10 minutes for specific suburbs in the cities as of January 14, 2022.
Included suburbs are listed out for you below:
SEND RATs Sydney
- St Peters
- Forest Lodge
- Sydney CBD
- Darling Point
- Rushcutters Bay
- Elizabeth Bay
SEND RATs Melbourne
- South Melbourne
- South Wharf
- Albert Park
- St Kilda
- East Melbourne
SEND customers will be able to add two-pack boxes of rapid antigen tests to their orders for $21 each (that’s the cost per 2-pack, to be clear). Individual orders will be capped at 15 units per person. The app has shared that 5-pack boxes of RATs will be coming to the service later this month.
You can check out the service in more detail here.
How to find stores that have RATs in stock
A lot of local retailers are quickly selling out of rapid antigen tests but some crowdsourcing sites may help you get your hands on those rare testing kits.
A new website titled ‘Find a RAT‘ has been launched to help Aussies find stores stocking test kits nearby. The site uses crowdsourced data to categorise retailers into ‘in stock’, ‘low stock’ or ‘no stock’ categories.
Instagram account @bondi_lines has also been helpful in tracking the wait times at PCR testing sites in NSW and has since expanded to finding stores where you can buy a rapid antigen test for those in Sydney.
If you are located in NSW, here’s a guide on how to register a positive RAT result on the Service NSW app.
We’ll keep this article updated if we learn of any more useful tools for finding rapid antigen tests in Australia.
This article had been updated since its original publish date.