Free rapid antigen tests in Tasmania — here's where to get them and how to register a positive result
Tasmania is the latest state to accept rapid antigen tests as a diagnostic tool for positive COVID-19 cases.
The change means PCR tests are no longer required to confirm whether you have contracted COVID — a move designed to help ease the pressure on the state's testing clinics.
Here's what you need to know about the changes.
Where can I get a rapid test?
It's no secret rapid tests are hard to come by — word of restocks at pharmacies, supermarkets and other retailers often see lines forming before they open their doors for the day, and tests sell out within a matter of hours.
But with the move away from PCR testing, the state government is working on distributing more tests free of charge.
Free rapid tests are being distributed at the Derwent Entertainment Centre and the Police Academy at Rokeby in the state's south for close contacts, with nearly 10,000 handed out in one day alone.
Public Health has also established additional distribution sites at the Silverdome in Launceston, and at the Dial Sports Complex in Penguin.
These four sites are open from 8am until 4pm each day, however tests can only be collected by those with symptoms or those who are close contacts of positive cases.
"[The sites] are not collection points for people who are asymptomatic or people that are not close contacts," state health secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said.
My rapid test is positive, what now?
With a move away from PCR testing, positive cases in Tasmania are no longer being registered automatically — meaning you will need to register your positive result with Public Health.
The Tasmanian coronavirus website has information for positive cases and a form where you can register your positive RAT result.
After registering you will be contacted by Public Health with further information, including isolation requirements and how to access medical assistance.
A follow-up survey will also be used to identify if you have been at any high-risk settings, and whether they need to notify others at that location — similar to how contacts at Party in the Apocalypse were managed.
Public Health also asks you to get in touch with people who may be close contacts and advise them to monitor for symptoms and isolate as required.
Can I still get a PCR test?
Despite the move away from PCR tests in favour of rapid tests, it doesn't mean Tasmania will close down its testing clinics across the state.
If you can't access a rapid test, you can still be tested for COVID at one of the state's testing clinics, which have capacity for 4,000–5,000 tests each day, authorities say.
"If you are uncomfortable using [a rapid test] you can get a PCR test. We are not going to pack up our state testing clinics, they will be available," Mr Gutwein said.
Bookings for PCR tests at state-run clinics can now be made online , with a wait time of "around 24 hours" for an appointment.
How long do I need to isolate for?
Positive cases are required to isolate at home for seven days from the day of their test — either a rapid test or a PCR.
If you're free of symptoms after isolating for seven days from your positive result, you are free to leave quarantine, but must wear a mask when outside your home for the next seven days, and avoid high-risk settings such as hospitals and aged care homes.
Close contacts of positive cases need to quarantine at home for seven days after their last exposure from a case, and must take a rapid test as soon as possible, and on day six of their isolation.
If close contacts don't have symptoms and haven't returned a positive test, they are free to leave isolation on day seven.
Could we run out of rapid tests?
When borders reopened last month, the state government had a stockpile of 500,000 rapid tests, and as of Thursday 125,000 were still in stock.
Given the future demand for the tests, the government has ordered 2 million more tests that will be delivered by January 14, and another 3 million will arrive a few weeks after that.
"We are getting RATs every second day," state health secretary Kathrine-Morgan Wicks said.
"We've got a further 90,000 arriving into the state on Sunday [January 9] and 200,000 next week, so we are very confident with the supply of rapid antigen tests that we have for health purposes, remembering that the priority is for symptomatic [people] and close contacts."