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About rapid antigen tests

When and how to use rapid antigen tests.

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 should isolate for at least 5 days or as long as you have symptoms. Find out more on Checklist for COVID cases.

You should report your positive rapid antigen test result online or by calling the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398.

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.

Council program

You should have RATs at home in case you need to test for COVID-19.

Most local councils in Victoria are offering free RATs. Everyone can get up to 2 packs of 5 RATs per person, and up 2 packs for each household member. People with disability and their carers can get 20 free tests.

Contact your local council to find out where you can get RAT tests. You do not need to be a resident in the council area in which you are collecting tests. You can collect RATs as many times as you need. If you run out of RATs, you can collect more to make sure you are prepared.

You should not go to a council site if you have COVID symptoms.

Free RATs are also available at some community health organisations and private pathology centres.

Visit Get a COVID-19 test for information on local councils, community health organisations and private pathology centres.

  • 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 test positive, you should isolate at home for at least 5 days or until you don't have symptoms anymore. See Checklist for cases for more information.

    How your result will appear What it means What to do next
    negative rapid antigen test result
    It is unlikely you have COVID-19.

    Monitor your symptoms and go about your day in a COVIDSafe way.

    positive rapid antigen test result

    You are a case.

    Note: the result is positive even if the second line is very thin/faint.

    Follow the checklist for cases: Report your result, stay home for at least 5 days or until you don't have symptoms anymore and tell the people you have been in contact with.

    an invalid rapid antigen test result

    No result

    The test has not worked. You need to repeat the test.

    Repeat the test

    1. Invalid again?
      • Get a standard COVID (PCR test).
    2. Positive
      • As per the positive result instructions.
    3. Negative
      • As per the negative result instructions.

  • If you tested positive using a rapid antigen test, you are a COVID-19 case and you should report your result to the Department of Health online, see Report your rapid antigen test result, or call 1800 675 398.

    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 GP Respiratory ClinicExternal Link , can assess you and prescribe them for you or refer you to a hospital if that is more appropriate.

Reviewed 23 January 2023

Coronavirus Victoria

Coronavirus Hotline

Call the Coronavirus Hotline if you need help to report a rapid antigen test (RAT) or if you have any questions about COVID-19.

The Victorian Coronavirus Hotline diverts to the National Coronavirus Helpline every night between 4pm and 9am.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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