Covid home testing available from November 1, but premiers will have final say

Courtney Gould and Helena BurkeNCA NewsWire
VideoRapid antigen tests for home use could be available in Australia before Christmas

Australians will soon be able to take a COVID-19 test from the comfort of their home after the federal government gave the green light for do-it-yourself tests to be made available from November 1.

The rapid antigen tests are already widely available for at-home use around the world, including in the UK and US, and provide a result in just 20 minutes.

Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the new at-home option, saying it would help Australians adapt to living safely with the virus.

“One of the critical parts of the national plan is to make sure that people will be able to go about their daily activities safely,” he said.

“So I am delighted that the TGA has now recommended that home testing will be available from the first of November.”

But the Health Minister said it would be up to state and territory leaders whether they would allow at-home testing within their jurisdictions.

“The second thing is to ensure that each of the states and territories is in a position to accept (the at-home tests),” Mr Hunt said.

“We’ve always said that the question of public health orders was a matter for the states.”

Greg Hunt Presser
Camera IconHealth Minister Greg Hunt said 33 different Covid tests were already approved for supervised use, which would likely become available for at-home testing. NCA NewsWire/Sarah Matray. Credit: News Corp Australia

More than 30 different COVID-19 tests have already been approved for supervised use, which will become available for at-home use pending approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

“We already have 33 tests that have been approved for use outside the home so I imagine they’ll be able to be converted,” Mr Hunt said.

“My hope is (they’ll be approved) as soon as possible after the first of November, but I won’t put a particular date because the TGA runs an independent safety and effectiveness testing process for each test.”

TGA boss Professor John Skerritt told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that home tests would be available for Australians to purchase “on the internet, to pharmacies, convenience stores, whatever channels they want to get”.

Professor Skerritt was confident home tests would be approved by November 1.

“I do believe companies will be ready. But I don’t think they’ll be ready a long time before November,” he said.

Camera IconTGA boss John Skerritt said the regulator was working to ensure appropriate modifications were made to Covid tests for at-home use. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Professor Skerritt said on Monday evening the TGA was working with manufacturers, states and territories “as a priority” to ensure modifications could be made to ensure their suitability for at-home use.

“It is anticipated that 70 per cent of Australians across the country will be double vaccinated, triggering phase B of the national plan by the end of October,” he said.

“Therefore a new regulation will be made … permitting the sale and use of home tests after 1 November.”

He said individual tests would still require approval but the review of data provided to the TGA had “already commenced”.

Rapid antigen testing is already being used in a number of settings across the country, such as in aged care homes and in some quarantine facilities.

On Monday, NCA Newswire revealed the TGA had been waiting on a “signal” from the government to progress approvals for rapid antigen testing.

A statement from a spokesman for Mr Hunt said the government had “already tasked” the TGA with urgently assessing the safety and efficacy of rapid antigen testing for home use.

Asked if the delay in rolling out rapid antigen tests for home use in Australia was a deliberate strategy until there were higher levels of vaccination in the community, Professor Skerritt said: “Correct”.

“If you’ve got someone out there in the community who’s infectious and 80 per cent of people ... vaccinated, it’s a hell of a big difference than if you’ve only got 50 per cent vaccinated,” he told NCA Newswire.

Originally published as Covid home testing available from November 1, but premiers will have final say

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