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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 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 Checklist for COVID cases.

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

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.

Find out where to get a free rapid antigen test on Get a COVID-19 test page.

  • 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 Where to get tested for COVID-19 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.

    For school students and staff, free rapid antigen tests are available through schools and early childhood education facilities. For more details, see Rapid antigen testing in schools.

  • 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 Checklist for COVID contacts, 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
    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, immediately isolate for seven days, and tell your contacts.

    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 must 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.

    If you tested positive and are at higher risk of severe illness and have registered your result, you should also make an appointment with a GP immediately and tell them you have COVID-19.

    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 27 September 2022

Coronavirus Victoria

24/7 Coronavirus Hotline

If you suspect you may have COVID-19 call the dedicated hotline – open 24 hours, 7 days. The COVIDSafe Information hotline diverts to the national hotline every day from 8pm to 8am.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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