Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) explained
Rapid Antigen Tests are one of the two ways to test for COVID-19. So what are RATs and do you need any for your staff? We explain.
What are RATs and how do they work?
Rapid antigen self-tests (RATs) are one of two types of tests that can detect if you have COVID-19. The other test is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR, or RT-PCR).
RATs can be done at home by yourself. Most will provide a result in 15 to 30 minutes.
The test is taken via either:
- Saliva — spitting into a tube or sucking on a swab
- Nasal swab — swabbing each nostril.
- Most antigen kits include detailed instructions on how you can do your test.
Which ones are approved for use in Australia?
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved the following COVID-19 self-tests for Australia.
Rapid antigen tests are not all equal — the clinical sensitivity differs among different manufacturers. However, the TGA says a minimum clinical sensitivity of at least 80 per cent (for specimens collected within seven days of symptom onset) and a minimum clinical specificity of at least 98 per cent is required. This aligns with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
The following rankings apply to TGA-approved tests.
- Acceptable sensitivity - clinical sensitivity greater than 80 per cent PPA
- High sensitivity - clinical sensitivity greater than 90 per cent PPA
- Very high sensitivity - clinical sensitivity greater than 95 per cent PPA
How can I use them in my business?
The WA Government lifted the ban on the sale of RATs in WA on January 10, 2022.
The WA Health Department has released guidelines on how and when RATs can be used as part of official COVID-19 testing requirements.
Employers need to consider how RAT and PCR testing may be effectively used based on the risks associated with the workplace.
PCR testing for COVID-19 is carried out at COVID clinics, regional public hospitals and health services, remote health clinics (where COVID clinics are not available) and private pathology centres. PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA is the State approved pathology provider at all public clinics.
How do I access RATs
RATs are available for purchase at pharmacies and supermarkets across WA.
In addition, each Western Australian household is eligible for five free individual RAT tests. Register online or contact 13 COVID (13 26843) for assistance.
Once registered, people will receive confirmation with a unique order number which is required if they elect to collect their free RATs from a designated collection point in the metropolitan area.
Do I have to supply RATs to staff?
Businesses will need to make an individual decision on whether you supply rapid antigen tests to staff as part of your COVID-19 safety policy.
It is recommended you seek advice before implementing any testing regime.
Contact the Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or via email@example.com to discuss your business’ circumstances.