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About rapid antigen tests

When and how to use rapid antigen tests

Everyone’s first option should be to use a rapid antigen test.

Rapid antigen tests are the cornerstone of Victoria’s community testing system. They are quick and highly accurate, particularly if you have symptoms or if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

If you have symptoms or you are a contact, and you can't access a rapid antigen test, you should get a PCR test.

If you can't access either test at the moment, isolate at home until you can.

Rapid antigen tests cannot detect other respiratory viruses (such as the flu). If you have acute respiratory symptoms, you should stay at home until you recover.

Early treatment medicines are now available for eligible Victorians who have COVID-19 to prevent them from getting so sick that they need hospital care. To see if you may be eligible and for more information, visit COVID-19 medicines.

You can collect 5 rapid antigen tests (per person) from a COVID-19 testing site.

  • Rapid antigen tests are for personal use and not for resale.
  • Please check Get a PCR test for COVID-19 to find the nearest COVID-19 testing site. Check site details for rapid antigen test availability.
  • Rapid antigen tests are quick and highly accurate. Most people should take a rapid antigen test as their first option, particularly if you have symptoms or you are a contact of someone who has COVID-19. You should take a rapid antigen test:

    • if you have symptoms or are a household contact
    • to quickly check if you may have COVID-19, for example, before attending a crowded event, social gathering or visiting vulnerable people
    • as directed as part of an established surveillance (or screening) program such as one organised by your employer.

    You will be able to purchase a test kit from supermarkets, pharmacies or online from selected suppliers. Rapid antigen test kits are currently offered for free at state-run testing sites.

    Eligible Commonwealth concession card holders can access free rapid antigen tests through the concessional access program. Up to 20 rapid antigen tests are available for free for eligible people living with a disability at state-run testing sites and through Disability Liaison Officers.

    Read Supporting families with free RATs at school for information on rapid antigen tests distributed at schools.

    There are different types of rapid antigen tests. Follow the instructions in your kit, as they may differ between tests.

    If you test positive on a rapid antigen test, you are a case and you must follow your checklist and report your result.

    Testing sites that have RAT kits

    • Barabool Road - Belmont
    • Bouverie Street - Carlton
    • Broderick Road - Corio (from 2nd May)
    • Casterton Memorial Hospital Drive-Through
    • Central Highlands Rural Health - Daylesford Health - Walk Through
    • Central Highlands Rural Health - Kyneton Health - Walk Through
    • Cohealth - Collingwood
    • cohealth West Footscray Respiratory Clinic - Symptomatic respiratory assessments/ symptomatic testing ONLY
    • Colac Area Health
    • Coolaroo Testing Hub
    • Corryong Health
    • Cranbourne Testing Hub - Drive Through
    • EACH - Lilydale
    • EACH - Yarra Junction
    • East Grampians Health Service – Drive through and Walk Through
    • East Wimmera Health Service - Birchip campus - Drive Through
    • East Wimmera Health Service - Charlton campus - Drive Through
    • East Wimmera Health Service - Donald campus - Drive Through
    • East Wimmera Health Service - St Arnaud campus - Drive Through
    • East Wimmera Health Service - Wycheproof campus - Drive Through
    • Eastern Health - Box Hill Hospital - Walk Through
    • Eastern Health - Healesville Living and Learning Centre - Walk Through
    • Echuca Covid Testing Site - Walk Through
    • Edenhope & District Memorial Hospital - Drive Through
    • Gippsland Lakes Complete Health
    • Goulburn Valley Health - Shepparton Campus - Walk Through
    • Heathcote Health testing clinic
    • Inglewood and Districts Health Service - Inglewood - Walk Through
    • IYU Recreation Reserve, Pakenham
    • Kilmore District Health - Appointment only
    • Mallee Track Health Community Service
    • Mansfield Testing Clinic
    • Maryborough District Health Service - Drive Through
    • Melbourne Showgrounds - Drive Through
    • Moe Senior Citizen's Centre
    • Montague Street - South Melbourne
    • NCN Health - Cobram Hospital - Appointment only
    • NCN Health - Nathalia Hospital - Appointment only
    • NCN Health - Numurkah Hospital - Appointment only
    • Northeast Health - Wangaratta
    • Northern Health - Northern Hospital - Drive Through
    • Orbost Regional Health - Drive Through
    • Packington Street - Newtown (Geelong)
    • Peninsula Health - Rosebud Hospital - Walk Through
    • Portland District Health Service - Walk Through
    • Robinvale District Health Service - Hospital Car Park - Drive Through
    • Sandringham Hospital - Walk Through
    • Seymour Health - Drive-Through
    • South West Health Care - Warrnambool
    • Springers Leisure Centre
    • Stawell Regional Health - Drive Through
    • Stawell Regional Health - Walk Through
    • Swan Hill District Health - Swan Hill Showgrounds
    • The Royal Children's Hospital - Drive Through
    • Traralgon Recreation Reserve
    • Wantirna Health - Wantirna Trash and Treasure Market
    • Western District Health Service - Hamilton Base Hospital
    • Western Health - Melton
    • Western Health - Sunbury COVID-19 Testing Clinic - Walk Through
    • Wimmera Health Care Group - Horsham - Drive Through
    • Yarram and District Health Service
    • Yarrawonga Health - Drive Through
    • Yea & District Memorial Hospital - Appointment only
    • If you have symptoms or you are a contact of someone who has COVID-19, and you can't access a rapid antigen test, you can get a PCR test.
      • If you do not have symptoms and you are not a contact, and you test positive on a rapid antigen test, we recommend you get a PCR test to confirm that result. We do not recommend this if you have symptoms or you are a contact.
    • If required for other reasons and you have been directly advised to get a PCR test.
  • Treat your positive rapid antigen test as official - because it is. You must report your result, isolate immediately and follow your checklist.

    If you have symptoms or if you are a contact of someone with COVID-19, you are not recommended to get a PCR test to confirm a positive rapid antigen test result. It is already very likely you have COVID-19.

    But there are some circumstances where it is recommended you confirm your positive rapid antigen test result with a PCR test.

    Tested positive on a rapid antigen test

    Getting a PCR to confirm your result

    You have COVID-19 symptoms.

    Not recommended.

    You have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

    Not recommended.

    You don’t have symptoms and don’t believe you have been in contact with anyone who has COVID-19.

    Recommended. You are still likely to have COVID-19. Stay isolated for 7 days. If your PCR result comes back negative, you are not a case and can leave isolation.

    Remember: if you are getting a PCR test to confirm your positive rapid antigen test result, you are still required to isolate before you get a PCR test and while you wait for the result of your PCR test. You can leave isolation to get tested, get medical help or medical supplies, to escape family violence, or if it’s an emergency.

    Note: some essential workers may be required to get a PCR test as part of regular arrangements.

  • If you tested positive using a rapid antigen test, you are officially a case and you must report your result to the Department of Health online or call 1800 675 398.

    When you report your result, the form or hotline will ask questions about your health and wellbeing, and about any medical conditions which may mean you need extra support. This information enables the Department of Health to provide you with tailored support and care.

    You don’t need to report your result if you tested positive from a PCR test.

  • 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.

  • There are two types of rapid antigen tests available:

    • Saliva - this test involves spitting into a tube or sucking on a swab
    • Nasal swab - this test involves swabbing each nostril.

    Test kits will contain test device; a nasal swab or a saliva pen; test tube, dropper or a spit funnel and a buffer. Most antigen kits that can be purchased will have detailed instructions on how you can do your test and discard the materials after the test. Follow them carefully.

    All kits have a QR code, which links to a video that demonstrates how to take a test.

    Contents of your antigen kit will differ depending on which one you have purchased.

    Test device

    This is used to process your test and provide a result. These will look slightly different depending on which kit you purchase.

    rapid antigen testing device

    Nasal (Nose) swab

    Nasal antigen kits include a sterile cotton swab used to collect your sample.

    rapid antigen test nasal swab

    Collection materials

    A - Test tube
    Both nasal (nose) and oral fluid (saliva) kits will contain this to put your sample in.

    rapid antigen testing tube

    B - Spit funnel
    Oral fluid (saliva) kits will contain this to help collect your spit.

    rapid antigen test spit funnel

    C - Dropper cap
    This is used to help direct your sample.

    rapid antigen test dropper cap

    Buffer

    The ‘buffer’ is a chemical solution that extracts virus material from your saliva or nasal swab.

    rapid antigen test buffer

    Saliva pens

    Saliva pens are an all-in-one test which don’t require the use of a test device or dropper cap.

    rapid antigen test saliva pens
  • PCR (standard test) Rapid antigen test
    Cost Free $10-$15 (free via the Commonwealth concessional access programExternal Link )
    Accuracy Very accurate Very accurate when used by people with symptoms or COVID-19 contacts
    Specimen Type Throat-Nose or Saliva Nose or saliva
    Result Time 24-48 hours 15-30 minutes
    Self-test at Home No Yes

Reviewed 23 June 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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