A positive rapid antigen test will count as an official COVID-19 case in New South Wales from next week, in a significant shift brought on by the Omicron wave.
While the rapid tests are less accurate than the lab-run PCR tests, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says people with symptoms who return a positive RAT result should treat themselves as a case.
They should isolate for seven days and alert their close contacts, she said.
If a household contact or someone else with high-risk exposure returns a positive RAT, they should also consider themselves a COVID-19 case.
People who return a positive result despite having no symptoms and no known exposures to COVID-19 cases should consider getting a PCR test or do another test, Dr Chant advised.
“But at any time you have had a positive test and develop symptoms, you should act as if it is a positive test,” she said.
Service NSW is currently developing a mechanism to allow people to upload their positive RAT results and link them to health advice and services.
“My key message is please do not go out and about if you have symptoms. Please stay at home, get access to a RAT, or if you can’t … have a PCR test,” Dr Chant said.
“If you’re in any risk categories, we want to make sure you’re linked to care as that is our absolute priority.”
The policy change means rewriting public health orders requiring positive COVID-19 cases and close contacts to isolate for seven days.
Dr Chant acknowledged community access to RATs is currently low but expects it to improve markedly in the next fortnight.
The state is expecting the first shipment of an order of 50 million RATs to arrive next week.
She dismissed concerns people wouldn’t register their results and would instead disobey health directions.
“Many people in the community comply,” she said.