With wait times for COVID-19 test results reaching days in some cases, questions about whether Australia will soon be able to implement rapid testing tools are resurfacing.
The rapid antigen test can provide a swab result in as little as 15 minutes.
It is widely used in other countries, particularly the United Kingdom. However, aside from a few limited and controlled uses for returning visitors, the tests have yet to be fully implemented in Australia.
In April of last year, a Queensland company developed its own rapid test kit.
Both tests function in the same way. It’s nothing more than a swab of the back of the throat and nose.
The faster tests have been trialled and used in controlled environments across Australia with medical oversight. However, its application has been limited.
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 need COVID-19 testing on a regular basis.
“There are 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 are lots of places where it’s really good to get a rapid turnaround time [on test results].”
Professor Esterman believes that the reason Australia has not yet adopted rapid testing operations is due to concerns about their accuracy.
While the PCR test, which has been Australia’s preferred method of virus detection since the outbreak’s inception, is guaranteed to identify a positive COVID-19 case, the rapid antigen test has not been as sensitive.
However, as technology has advanced, its accuracy has improved, according to Professor Esterman.
“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.”
It seems that the Australian government is falling behind this sort of sensible solution, all after the epic fall in securing different vaccine supplies and subsequently the vaccination rollout and lastly the appalling management of the NSW government of the latest breakout, I am starting to personally wonder if we have the right leadership for the ongoing management of this crisis.
By Joe Cusmano