Rapid antigen tests (RATs) are the preferred means of testing for COVID-19 for most Victorians.
They are quick and accurate, particularly if you have symptoms or if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.
When to take a rapid antigen test
You should take a rapid antigen test:
- if you have symptoms of COVID-19 infection, no matter how mild
- if you are a household or close contact of someone who has COVID-19
- if you are a social contact of someone who has COVID-19. This includes workplaces and educational facilities
- before attending a crowded event, social gathering or visiting people at risk of serious illness, for example, when a test is required to attend a hospital or other health care setting. This is because COVID-19 can spread before you have symptoms. You can help protect others by checking you are negative before leaving home
- as part of a screening program, such as one organised by your employer.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms and you return a negative rapid antigen test you should stay home until your symptoms go away and repeat rapid antigen testing over the next several days.
Rapid antigen tests are better able to detect COVID-19 when repeated over successive days but do not detect other respiratory viruses, such as influenza.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you must isolate for at least 5 days or up to 7 days. The number of days you must isolate depends on whether you still have symptoms. Find out more about your legal requirements on .
You may leave isolation seven days after you took your test, but it is strongly recommended you stay home if you still have symptoms.
Call a doctor if you are unwell or go to hospital if it is an emergency.
If you have symptoms but cannot access a rapid antigen test, you should stay home until you can do so.
You can get a free rapid antigen testing kit from some state testing sites. Wear a high-quality, well-fitted face mask at testing sites and travel there by private vehicle, if possible.
Rapid antigen tests are free at state testing sites when you present a valid Medicare card.
You can collect 5 rapid antigen tests per person listed on your Medicare card from a state testing site.
- Rapid antigen tests are for personal use and not for resale.
- Please check to find the nearest COVID-19 testing site. Check site details for rapid antigen test availability.
You can also buy rapid antigen test kits from supermarkets, pharmacies, other retail outlets or online.
For NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) participants and Disability Support pensioners, up to 20 rapid antigen tests will also be available at selected testing sites and through Disability Liaison Officers.
There are different types of rapid antigen tests. Follow the instructions in your kit, as they differ between types.
If you test negative and feel unwell, stay home until your symptoms go away. If you must go out, wear a well fitted mask when indoors and shared outdoor spaces. Don’t visit hospitals or care facilities and avoid people at risk of severe infection.
If you are a close contact and test negative for COVID-19, you must continue to follow the COVID , including staying at home for 7 days. You are allowed to leave home each day provided you take a rapid antigen test 5 out of 7 days and return a negative result each time.
How your result will appear What it means What to do next It is unlikely you have COVID-19.
Monitor your symptoms and go about your day in a COVIDSafe way.
You are a case.
Note: the result is positive even if the second line is very thin/faint.
The test has not worked. You need to repeat the test.
Repeat the test
- Invalid again?
- Get a standard COVID (PCR test).
- As per the positive result instructions.
- As per the negative result instructions.
- Invalid again?
When you report your result, you will be asked questions about your health and wellbeing, and about any medical conditions that may mean you need extra support. This information helps the Department of Health to provide you with tailored support and care via the COVID Positive Pathways Program.
You don’t need to report your result if you tested positive from a PCR test.
Check with your GP as soon as possible if you are eligible for early treatment medicine to help prevent you from getting so sick that you end up in hospital. Your GP, or a , can assess you and prescribe them for you or refer you to a hospital if that is more appropriate.
Reviewed 27 September 2022