The tests – that can be conducted and return results in just 10 minutes – are being reviewed by health authorities as a way to minimise the potential for super-spreading events.
“The most practical use is they are added on to the normal screening questions we would have at an essential business or at a hospital or ambulance service station, a police or fire station, anywhere were we need essential workers today in Sydney,” he said on Weekend Today.
“We could check their temperature, ask them questions, if they have any symptoms and then add on this extra test that can be done in ten minutes and then to check whether they have a viral load.
“They are very effective at catching those super spreaders and we can be sure that that plus all of the other questions we have asked that day, can help us keep that workplace safe.”
Dr Norton said that the antigen tests are being trialled at an aged care facility in south-west Sydney that currently has very low rates of vaccinations.
“We are tapping in a very large aged care facility in Glenfield in south-west Sydney. It is a large work force, over 900 people from multicultural background, not all vaccinated yet,” he said.
“So the facility managers came to us and said could you help us work on some protocols to use these new forms of tests to add another layer of surety to our staff.
“It also gives greater confidence to those residents and to their loved ones at home to know that the staff are being screened to the best possible way.”
Although the rapid tests are not as accurate as the PCR tests, they are still very helpful in detecting high viral loads and when used multiple times, can be very effective.
“We have a PCR test which is our gold standard, it takes 24 plus hours to come back so it is yesterday’s news when we finally get it even in quarantine,” Dr Norton said said.
“We could see this as a PCR and layer antigen testing in between, because they are very low cost, and then have a PCR just at the end. We can start talking about home quarantine and several other options.
“They cost about a sixth of the cost and they give you rules right there and then so that worker can go to work that day sure they don’t have a high viral load.”