Rapid antigen testing can be for surveillance testing in schools and big business, but will not replace the need for COVID screening clinics, says Murrumbidgee Local Health District
On Wednesday night the NSW government announced 30,000 rapid antigen tests would be sent to Albury, mainly for use in schools.
MLHD COVID Coordinator Emma Field said already businesses in the region were using rapid antigen testing for surveillance of their workforce.
However the new faster at-home testing which can provide results in about 15 minutes, won't replace traditional PCR testing.
NSW Health defines rapid antigen testing as a screening test used to potentially diagnose cases soon to prevent spread, but only PCR testing is a diagnostic test that can be used to confirm COVID cases.
"We don't use rapid antigen testing for a clinical decision making tool, what we use is PCR... we will not be substituting rapid antigen testing into our clinics at all," she said.
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Ms Field said the benefit of rapid antigen testing, which is less reliable than PCR testing, lies in its use in surveillance testing.
"I believe rapid antigen testing does have its place in this current climate... it's got a surveillance purpose and that's really important to note," she said.
"We've seen many of our big businesses in the area utilise rapid antigen testing now, there's a really good process that backs up rapid antigen testing. In that if you receive what they call a non-negative, or a positive, then you have to alert the local public health unit and have a PCR test."
Ms Field said for that reason, it makes sense to use PCR testing in schools.
"It does have its place... for surveillance purposes, and allows a really big volume of testing where you need it, where you have big pockets [of people]," she said.
"We've seen it happens in schools where you have hundreds coming on each day, and you need confidence they're coming on negative."
Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly indicated in October that rapid antigen testing could play a role keeping schools open in the future.
"We're certainly looking very closely at that once they're available for self-use," he said.
From Monday rapid antigen testing will be available in 700 Coles stores, while select Woolworths will stock the tests from early November.
The kits are estimated to cost $10 to $30.
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