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Rapid antigen testing in early childhood services (ECEC) - information for parents and carers

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are keeping children and staff as safe as possible by providing rapid antigen tests (RATs) and by following COVIDSafe steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in early childhood settings.

Free rapid antigen tests for children aged 3 to 5

The Victorian Government will continue to provide free at-home rapid antigen tests (RATs) for young learners aged between 3 and 5 years to support them and their families, minimise transmission, and help keep early childhood education and care services open.

RATs will continue to be delivered to sessional kindergartens, long daycare, family daycare and occasional care in Term 4 2022.

Children and staff are no longer recommended to conduct RATs twice a week. They should only test if they are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, or if they have symptoms.

Learn how you can test for COVID-19 at home

A factsheet for parents and carersExternal Link offering tips for administering rapid antigen tests on younger children is available. Watch this short video on how you can test for COVID -19 at home.

This video was produced prior to new current testing and reporting requirements. The latest information can be found on the Department of Health's page on rapid antigen testsExternal Link .

About rapid antigen tests

Everyone's first option should be to use a rapid antigen test. Rapid antigen tests are a great tool families can use to keep their ECEC services safe and ensure COVID-19 cases are identified early.

The tests can be done at home and will provide a result in 15 to 30 minutes. They are quick and accurate, particularly if you have symptoms or if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. Read taking the test for more information.

If your child tests positive on a rapid antigen test

The Department of Health strongly recommends that children:

  • who test positive to COVID-19 should stay home and isolate for 5 days; and
  • should not attend EC services after 5 days if still symptomatic

Parents and carers are recommended to advise the service of the child’s COVID-19 positive test result.

The Department of Health also recommends reporting a positive rapid antigen test (RAT) result to the Department of Health online or by calling 1800 675 398.

If you have symptoms and can't access a rapid antigen test

Get a PCR test and isolate at home while waiting for the result and until well.

If you are a close contact and can't access a rapid antigen test

Get a PCR test, isolate and follow the COVID contact checklist.

Interpreting your child's rapid antigen test result

Negative result

If your child's result is negative, it will appear as a single red line, next to the C on the test. It means that it is unlikely your child has COVID-19, especially if they have no symptoms.

A negative RAT result in a child with symptoms

If your child has symptoms but the rapid antigen test is negative, they should remain at home until they are well. It is recommended that they repeat the rapid antigen test within 24 hours.

If both rapid antigen tests are negative, it is recommended that your child has a PCR test and stays home until a result is received. If symptoms continue or worsen you should seek medical attention.

Positive result

If your child's result is positive, it will appear as two red lines, next to the C and T on the test. It means that it is very likely your child has COVID-19, especially if they have symptoms or are a contact.

If your child tests positive on a rapid antigen test but they have no symptoms

Invalid result

If your child's result is invalid, it will appear as either a single red line next to the T on the test or no lines at all. It means you have to repeat the test.

If you need help on how to use the RAT kit

Please watch the instructional videoExternal Link above. If you need further assistance you can contact the Department of Education and Training’s COVID-19 hotline on 1800 338 663 for general advice and support about at-home rapid antigen testing.

More information

Reviewed 14 October 2022

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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