Some Australians will be able test themselves for COVID-19 at home from next week as rapid antigen tests are allowed on store shelves.

Rapid antigen tests return a result within 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the test, which make them more appealing than getting a PCR test where you have to isolate for up to 72 hours.

But these screening tests are less accurate and you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket to do one.

Here’s what we know.

Where can I buy a rapid antigen test?

Australians in all but two states will be allowed to buy rapid antigen tests for home use from November 1.

The tests will be sold in pharmacies, supermarkets, including Coles and Woolworths, and other retailers both in-store and online.

South Australia and Western Australia do not allow the use of rapid antigen tests to detect or diagnose COVID-19.

So far, the TGA has approved nine different tests for home use.

How much is a rapid antigen test?

Woolworths has already made packs of tests available for pre-order online. It has priced a pack of two tests at $30, and a pack of five tests at $50.

Coles is expected to sell tests for a similar price.

Rapid antigen tests are not covered by Medicare.

In other countries, the tests have been given out for free. Singapore gave every household a pack of six tests, for free, last month.

The United Kingdom sends a free pack of seven tests to people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 who cannot get a test at their work or school.

However, the UK does not cover the cost of a COVID-19 test if it is required to travel to another country.

Can I use a rapid antigen test to travel?

Currently, no state or territory allows a rapid antigen test to be used for interstate travellers, with the exception of some industry workers.

For example, essential freight workers entering Western Australia must undergo a rapid antigen test at the border if they have not received a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 72 hours.

Travellers arriving in Australia from overseas must have proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before boarding their flight.

Some airlines require travellers to take rapid antigen test before boarding, in addition to the PCR test.

What if I get a positive result?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) says that, if your rapid antigen test returns a positive result, you should get a PCR test at a laboratory or testing site as soon as possible.

After getting a PCR test, you should isolate until you receive a negative result.

PCR tests are free in Australia.

What if I get a negative result?

Rapid antigen test are not as accurate as PCR tests.

If you feel unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19 but your rapid antigen test returns a negative result, the TGA says you should get a PCR test as soon as possible.

“Even if you do the test properly, it will miss people and it can give a false sense of security,” the Burnet Institute’s David Anderson says.

“You feel sick, but you do a rapid antigen test but you don’t swab your nose properly and you think everything is fine until you go about your daily business and expose lots of other people.”

Can children use rapid antigen test?

The TGA says rapid antigen tests on children at home should always be done or supervised by an adult.

Each test has different guidelines on how young a child can be to be tested, and how the test should be carried out, so follow the instructions.

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