WATCH

COVID-19 testing delays prompt calls for the rapid antigen testing kits to be rolled out

With waiting times for COVID-19 test results blowing out by days in some cases, questions are returning to whether Australia may soon be able to implement rapid testing tools.

The rapid antigen test can return a swab result in a near-instant 15 minutes.

It has been used in abundance overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom. But aside from some limited and controlled uses for returning travellers, the tests are yet to be fully realised in Australia.

Both of the tests work similarly. It's just a swab of the back of the throat and nose.

The faster tests have been trialed and used with medical oversight in controlled environments across Australia. But the use has been limited.

Related:

Professor Adrian Esterman, chairperson of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia, is advocating for the kits to be provided to those who require frequent COVID-19 testing.

"There's particular places where it would be very sensible to use the rapid antigen tests, for example in an airport, or where people are arriving," Professor Esterman said.

"In hospital settings, in workplace settings, there's lots of places were it's really good to get a rapid turn around time [on test results]."

TESTING: Laverty pathology area coordinator Ann Deniz at the new Weston Creek drive-through testing centre in Canberra, ACT. Picture: Karleen Minney

TESTING: Laverty pathology area coordinator Ann Deniz at the new Weston Creek drive-through testing centre in Canberra, ACT. Picture: Karleen Minney

The reason Australia has not yet adopted rapid testing operations, Professor Esterman said, comes down to the suspicion over their accuracy.

While the PCR test, which has been Australia's preferred method of virus detection since the start of the pandemic is guaranteed to correctly identify a positive COVID-19 case, the rapid antigen test has not been as sensitive.

But as technology has evolved, Professor Esterman said, its accuracy has improved.

"That barrier for using it [the rapid antigen test] is now gone because we have very good rapid antigen tests," Professor Esterman said.

"I can see no reason why they shouldn't be much more widely used these days, they are much, much cheaper than the PCR tests. There's really no excuse for us not using them."

This story What's involved in the rapid COVID-19 testing? first appeared on Newcastle Herald.