Getting a test
You’ve probably heard by now that with the Omicron variant of COVID surging in Newcastle, it has become a lot more difficult to get a PCR test. For that reason, a positive rapid antigen test (RAT) will count as an official COVID-19 case in NSW from mid January, in a significant shift brought on by the Omicron wave.
Unfortunately, because of the spike in cases, rapid antigen tests are also difficult to get. The Commonwealth Government has ordered lots more, and we hope these will be available by the end of January or beginning of February 2022.
National cabinet has agreed to provide up to 10 free rapid antigen tests for concession card holders over the next three months, which will be available through pharmacies. There is a maximum of 5 free tests per month. Everyone else will be able to buy them privately.
What to do if the test is positive?
People with symptoms who return a positive PCR or RAT result should treat themselves as a case.
They should isolate for seven days and alert their close contacts.
If a household contact or someone else with high-risk exposure returns a positive RAT, they should also consider themselves a COVID-19 case.
Service NSW is currently (08/01/2022) developing a mechanism to allow people to upload their positive RAT results and link them to health advice and services.
Care at home
With so many people now infected with Omicron, lots of people will be caring for themselves at home while they are unwell.
There is good information on a government website called Health Direct about how to do this, including when it is safe to self-care at home and when you may need to contact medical care –
De-isolation criteria and processes
If you do not have symptoms you may release yourself from isolation without waiting for an SMS or email from NSW Health if:
- at least 7 days have passed since your PCR swab, and
- you have had no sore throat, runny nose, cough, or breathlessness for the last 24 hours of your isolation period.
- You should wear a mask when interacting with other people and avoid visiting high risk settings (health care, aged care, disability care, or correctional facilities) for a further 3 days, and speak to your employer if you work in one of these settings prior to returning.
- If you continue to have these symptoms, you can phone the NSW Care at Home support line 1800-960-933 or National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800-020-080 for further advice. The current recommendation (08/01/2022) is:
- if symptoms are mild, continue with release from isolation.
- if symptoms are significant, continue isolation with monitoring yourself and contact medical care if you get worse. You can plan release from isolation at day 14 if there has been substantial improvement in respiratory symptoms (or earlier after 24 hours of symptom resolution).
- See Release and recovery from COVID-19 – Fact sheets (nsw.gov.au)