As borders open and concerns over the spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant seep into Australians' holiday plans, experts say rapid antigen tests (RATs) could be used to help protect those looking to get together with friends and family.
Graham Gordon, CEO of Gardian and developer of the Gardian Self Check App said rapid antigen tests can "absolutely", be used to further protect Australians who plan to spend time with family and friends this holiday season, but he cautions that the tests should be used properly and in a timely manner.
The Gardian Self Check App is an easy-to-use mobile application that guides individuals through using their COVID-19 self-test and can be used in conjunction with several rapid antigen tests including the Abbott Diagnostics Panbio COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test.
The mobile app offers a robust protocol for repeatable, self-managed COVID-19 testing via a secure platform and enables the sharing of results with schools, employers, venues or health departments.
As a world-first, the Gardian Self Check App operates from a cloud-based platform that manages applied tests in a controlled protocol. Offering the option of an online instructional video, the app provides a step-by-step guide for the individual and enables the capture and recording of individual consent and proof of test result. While recording all relevant info of the individual for action and follow up, it also registers batch number and test kit to the individual being tested so can be tracked and traced (if required). The image of the test result is stored and displayed as part of the test result certificate. When sharing results, the image capture allows the individual to provide proof that the test was completed, that it is a valid interpretation of the test outcome and that it was completed in accordance with the instructions for use.
According to Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is far more contagious than what we've seen previously with Delta and likely to be the most dominant strain circulating in Queensland within the next seven days.
With high community transmission in over 89 counties and 4.1 million Australians not yet fully vaccinated, 92 per cent of whom are adults, experts are urging holiday travellers to be extra cautious.
"It is clear that Omicron is very contagious — and the speed with which we will reach a peak is probably faster than we originally anticipated," Dr Gerrard said. “Preliminary evidence suggests that there may also be a reduction in vaccine efficacy and effectiveness against infection and transmission, so, if one wants to be extra cautious, taking a rapid test prior to attending an event or even returning to work, to ensure that you’re not transmitting the virus to anyone that's there, is a good idea."
"Rapid Antigen Tests are ideal for surveillance and pre-emptive protection in a population where you're starting to get an increased spread, and you want to prevent those outbreaks from occurring,” explains Gordon. “And while the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are widely considered the preferred choice for COVID-19 detection in Australia, they have a longer turnaround time – usually up to three days – which may impact on an individual’s travel plans. More importantly, the World Health Organisation has determined that not all PCRs are able to detect the Omicron variant.
“There are definitely safe ways to gather with friends and families for the holiday season. It just requires conversations with friends and family and considerations around how you want to protect the most vulnerable people who might be in your group," Gordon said.
“Rapid antigen tests give an indication of the individual’s status at a particular time – and prior to them going out in public – therefore providing an extra layer of data that gives individuals, employers and the management of public venues the confidence and peace-of-mind regarding where that person may be sitting in terms of possibly transmitting the virus to those who are more vulnerable."
Anyone who is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms should get tested right away regardless of vaccination status and travel plans.