COVID-19: Rapid antigen tests gain traction in Australia

Highlights

  • The popularity of rapid antigen tests (RATs) is growing in Australia.
  • Victoria will buy 2.2 million RAT kits.
  • United States would fork out US$1 billion (AU$1.4 billion) to buy and subsidise 200 million rapid tests.

The clamour surrounding rapid antigen tests (RATs) for COVID-19 has been growing in Australia, with many states indicating that they will adopt the method to get faster results on infection.

The latest to join the bandwagon has been Australia’s second-most populous state – Victoria. The state’s Health Minister Martin Foley said that the government will buy almost 2.2 million rapid antigen tests (RAT) to expand trials involving 1,200 employees, who are being tested three times a week as they work on a level crossing removal project and in the emergency department at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The announcement comes after federal Health Minister Greg Hunt stated that the Australians will be able to test themselves for COVID-19 at home from November – after the national medical regulator approves the method.

Earlier, the country’s most populous state New South Wales (NSW) had also announced plans to begin rapid antigen testing at schools and “key worksites” to detect COVID-19 cases within 20 minutes.

Elsewhere, the United States, on Wednesday, announced that it would be spending US$1 billion (AU$1.4 billion) to buy and subsidise 200 million tests rapid tests.

Even as Australia has been a late adopter of rapid antigen testing as a tool to aid reopening, the country is now playing catch-up. In India, which was devastated by the second wave of COVID-19, rapid testing of COVID-19 has been the primary tool of detecting the virus.

The chances of rapid antigen test showing a false positive is very rare – and as per the studies, rapid tests correctly have given a positive COVID-19 result in 99.6% of people.

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