Feature

New R.A.T. Race: The Rapid Antigen Test

OPINION |

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nations across the world were rushing to develop and release Rapid Antigen Tests (R.A.T.’s) to the general public.

They would allow people to test themselves within the comfort of their own homes, thus granting the independent opportunity of self-governance when it comes to detecting and tracking the Coronavirus. However, access and effectiveness of the R.A.T.’s have differed from country to country, with some still struggling to use it to its full potential.

The New South Wales Government recently announced in Australia that $1,000 fines would be handed out to anyone who does not register their Rapid Antigen Test results within 24 hours, even though this is a rule that is extremely difficult to enforce. After all, how do you know when someone has taken an R.A.T. in their own home accurately and successfully?

Reports have also revealed that R.A.T.’s may be handed out at Australian schools, while a ‘Dine and Discover’ style voucher program may be released to convince people to use the tests. In fact, the Australian federal government had just bought up to $62 million worth of R.A.T.’s in order to cope with ‘extreme urgency or events unforeseen’. This was also expected to help with the government’s promise to provide free tests to low-income families.

Up until now in Australia, R.A.T.’s have often cost between $10 and $20 per single test, available for purchase at chemists and supermarkets since November 2021 and sold in packs of 2, 5, 10, or more. Despite calls for free tests nationwide, the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has resisted pleas and confirmed that R.A.T.’s will not be free for everyone.

“We’ve invested hundreds of billions of dollars getting Australia through this crisis.

But we’re now in a stage of the pandemic where you can’t just make everything free because, when someone tells you they want to make something free, someone’s always going to pay for it and it’s going to be you.”

Scott Morrison
Australian Prime Minister

Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that $3.5 billion was found in the budget for the Brisbane-born Defence Minister, Peter Dutton to spend on 120 Military Tanks and other armored vehicles from the United States, but there was no spare cash for vital R.A.T.’s.

M1a2 Military Tank

However, some countries have managed to pull off just that, with the United Kingdom providing their R.A.T.’s for free to everyone, ever since their widespread release. It was originally announced that millions of tests would be available twice weekly for people across the country in order to detect cases, break chains, and save lives.

There are also concerns about the effectiveness of the R.A.T.’s themselves, with some reports suggesting they are not always accurate and can offer false negatives or positives. This is especially the case when you consider they are being administered by the public themselves, rather than trained professionals. When compared to the more rigorous and accurate P.C.R. test, the R.A.T. becomes sketchy at best.

“The rapid test has the obvious advantage of having results available within 15 minutes, but it is not as sensitive as the P.C.R.

That is, it can register as negative when the person is still shedding small amounts of virus. This is particularly true within the first couple of days after exposure when there is not enough virus in the nose to turn the test positive.

Nonetheless, the rapid test can be useful when gathering with vaccinated family and friends to provide an additional measure of comfort and reassurance.”

Dr William Schaffner
Professor of Preventive Medicine, Department of Health Policy, and professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

So as it stands, it appears as though free rapid antigen tests are allegedly inaccurate, and quite difficult to acquire, unless you live in the U.K. or are the best Tennis Player in the World.

Novak Djokovic | Courtesy: Carine06 (UK)

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My name is Seb Jenkins, and I'm an author, designer and freelance journalist from the United Kingdom. I graduated from the University of Kent in 2018, with a degree in journalism. I have been writing novels for over five years now, completing multiple projects in that time. I have also completed countless articles, blogs, fiction pieces, website content and more over the last three years, as well as various editing jobs of all shapes and sizes. In my spare time, I'm always reading and writing.