COVID-19 coronavirus: Testing, isolation and close contact frequently asked questions

Guidance
Find answers to your questions about COVID-19 testing, isolation and close contact information.

 

Rapid antigen tests (RAT)

What is a RAT?

Rapid antigen tests (RATs) identify the presence of COVID-19 from either saliva or nasal samples.

RATs provide results within 15 to 30 minutes and can be done at home by yourself.

RATs approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) can be used in WA. A list of approved RATs can be found on the TGA website (external link).

When should I use a RAT?

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, you should present for PCR testing at a COVID clinic or use a RAT.

Even if you do not have symptoms, to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19, you are encouraged to use a RAT before visiting someone who is vulnerable, immunocompromised, or before visiting a high-risk setting, including a hospital or residential aged care or disability care facilities. You may also consider using a RAT if you are attending a gathering with lots of people in a crowded indoor or outdoor place, such as a wedding or funeral.

If you test positive to COVID-19 or are a close contact, you may be required to undergo a RAT on particular days.

How do I use a RAT?

RATs are quick to use, and there are different types of RATs that can be used at home. Follow the instructions in your test package, as they may be different from other tests. It is important the instructions are followed closely to ensure the test is effective.

Where can I get a RAT?

RATs are available for purchase from supermarkets, pharmacies, and other retailers.

Free RATs are available for concession card holders from local pharmacies each month. Visit Services Australia’s website (external link) for more information.

I don’t have any RATs, what should I do?

If you develop symptoms, you should get tested immediately at a COVID testing clinic (external link), and isolate until you receive your result.

RATs are available for purchase from supermarkets, pharmacies, and other retailers. If you do not have any RATs, you could ask a friend, neighbour, or family member to provide you with one.

Do I need to report my RAT result?

Yes, if you receive a positive RAT result, you must register it with the WA Department of Health’s online portal (external link). You will also need to isolate immediately and you will receive other important health advice.

If you cannot access a computer or internet, call 13 COVID (13 26843) who can assist with registering your result.

Are RATs accurate enough to use?

COVID-19 PCR tests are the most accurate method to confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis. RATs are the next best option, including for close contacts who have had a known COVID-19 exposure or who develop symptoms.

My RAT result is negative, but I have symptoms. Do I also need a PCR test?

You do not need a PCR test if your RAT is negative. However, if you have symptoms, you can request a PCR test at a COVID testing clinic.

You must isolate until your test result is received:

  • if positive – follow positive case guidelines
  • if negative – you are not required to isolate but should stay home until symptoms clear.

See the What to do if you have COVID-19 or are a close contact for more information.

How do I show evidence of a positive/negative RAT for work purposes?

Check with your employer about any policies or protocols they have in place for reporting RAT results.

I need to test my young child, is a RAT or PCR recommended?

A PCR test is available for children of any age. All RAT kits contain guidance on their recommended use. Check the suitability of using the RAT on children and follow the instructions closely. Parents or guardians should perform or supervise RATs on children.

Are testing centres being expanded now COVID-19 is expected to be in the community more prominently?

The opening days and times of COVID-19 testing clinics (external link) differ between locations, with expanded hours available to meet increasing demand as required.

Testing is available at COVID clinics, regional public hospitals and health services, remote health clinics (where COVID clinics are not available) and private pathology centres. PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA is the State approved pathology provider at all public clinics.

Will PCR testing continue to be free?

Testing at public COVID-19 clinics (metropolitan and regional) is free. No Medicare card is required. Referrals are not required at private pathology centres if you have symptoms or are a close contact.

For locations and opening days and times please visit the COVID clinics page (external link).

Isolation and close contacts

Who is defined as a close contact?

A close contact is now defined as:

  • a household member or intimate partner of a person with COVID-19 who has had contact with them during their infectious period,
  • someone who has had close personal interaction with a person with COVID-19 during their infectious period, where they spent 4 hours of cumulative contact with them in a residential setting (including a home, residential care facility, boarding school, maritime vessel, or other accommodation facility) in any 24-hour period where masks have been removed by both people during the period of contact
  • someone who is informed by WA Health that they are a close contact.

How long do I need to isolate?

If you have tested positive to COVID-19, you will need to stay in isolation for a minimum of 7 days.

The 7-day isolation period means 7 complete days after the day you became a case. This means 7 x 24 hours. For example, if you became a case at 11.45pm on 14 April 2022, your isolation period will not finish until 11.45pm on 21 April 2022.

At Day 7, if you have symptoms, you should continue isolating until symptoms have cleared. If you don’t have symptoms after Day 7, you can leave self-isolation.

Do I have to show a negative test result to leave isolation and go back to work, after testing positive to COVID-19 and isolating for 7 days?

No, you do not need a negative COVID-19 result to leave isolation and go back to work if you have completed 7 days of isolation since testing positive, and no longer have symptoms.

A person may still test positive after the 7 days because they can shed the virus. They are not contagious.

Do I have to isolate for 7 days if I become a close contact after recently completing isolation as a positive COVID-19 case?

No. You are not considered a close contact within 12 weeks of being released from isolation as a COVID-19 case unless you are immunocompromised or symptomatic.

If one of my children tested positive for COVID-19 and my second child tested positive later, do we need to start our isolation again?

If a second person tests positive while the family is completing 7 days of isolation, the whole family does not need to start the 7 days of isolation again. The family members who are close contacts only need to complete one 7-day isolation period. The second child who tests positive will need to start their 7-day isolation period from the time they tested positive.

If a second person tests positive after the family have completed their first 7 days of isolation (for example on day 8 onwards), the family will need to complete another 7 days isolation. However, anyone that was previously a positive case does not need to isolate again provided it is not more than 12 weeks from when they were released from isolation and they are not immunocompromised or symptomatic.

A person who has had COVID-19 is not considered a close contact for 12 weeks after they have been released from isolation.

I’ve tested positive, is it recommended I isolate from the rest of my household, or can we isolate together?

Yes, if you have tested positive, and living within a household with people who have not tested positive, you should isolate away from others in your house, in a separate room and have access to a separate bathroom, if possible. If this is not possible, you need to take extra precautions.

I have just tested positive and need to isolate – who do I need to tell?

If you tested positive using a self-administered RAT, you need to report your result online (external link), or call 13 COVID (13 26843) for assistance. You should isolate immediately for 7 days and notify your close contacts. They will need to get tested and isolate for 7 days.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you will receive an SMS from WA Health. There is a link in the SMS that will take you to a web page with more information and a number of questions.

The questions will ask if you have visited any high-risk locations or need COVID-19 Care at home. These questions will help WA Health to continue to protect people at high risk of getting sick from COVID-19.

Can close contacts play sport? And if so, should a mask be worn?   

Close contacts without symptoms may leave isolation for any reason if they have obtained a negative result from a rapid antigen test undertaken on each day on which they propose to leave isolation. If they leave isolation during the isolation period, they must wear a mask and must not enter a high risk setting.

There are exemptions from wearing a mask if the person is engaged in vigorous exercise or physical activity. This applies to close contacts without symptoms.

Close contacts without symptoms are encouraged to avoid non-essential gatherings as part of their personal individual responsibility. Close contacts remain at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 and should not be encouraged to participate in activities where mask wearing is exempt and physical distancing is not possible. This includes participating in community sport.

However, please note that it is up to individuals, sport clubs and organisations to set their own rules based on their risk assessment.

What support is available to me if I need to isolate?

The WA COVID-19 Test Isolation Payment is a single $320 payment for workers living in WA who have been directed to quarantine while waiting for a COVID-19 test result, and are unable to work from home and do not have access to paid leave or other income.

You may also be eligible for the Australian Government’s Pandemic Disaster Leave Payment (external link).

Page reviewed 13 May 2022