Rapid antigen tests are nasal tests that allow people to test themselves for COVID-19 at home. The turnaround time for results is 15 minutes.
Anyone who returns a positive rapid antigen test result must present for a PCR test at a GP clinic, pharmacy or testing centre, which will then detect the genetic material of the virus.
Coles will sell Hough Pharma brand nasal tests, which are manufactured in China, in 700 Coles stores around the country.
Tests will be sold in packs of two or five in store, and will also be available to online shoppers.
Woolworths will make tests available initially only in states where there are outbreaks, including the ACT, NSW and Victoria.
Eight rapid antigen tests have now been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of New South Wales and advisor to the WHO (World Health Organisation), told HelloCare introduction of the tests has been somewhat delayed in Australia, but they will provide an important layer of defence against COVID-19.
Rapid antigen tests can accurately help you identify that you do not have the infection to go to work safely, but also to go and visit an elderly person, she said.
Where there are high levels of the virus circulating in the community, rapid antigen testing can be used to help prevent visitors from bringing the virus into aged care homes, particularly before residents receive their booster shots, Professor McLaws said.
Professor McLaws said the most desireable tests are those that have the “best ability to find you accurately as not having the disease”.
The first batch of tests were approved in September, with Health Minister Greg Hunt pointing out they are an essential part of Australia’s reopening plan.
The kits are expected to cost between $10 and $30.