Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly announced today that close contacts of people with Covid-19 can expect to start receiving rapid antigen tests from tomorrow.

The tests are less accurate than PCR tests, but can be taken at home if a contact has no symptoms.

Under the new system rolled out today, a close contact is eligible if they are both fully vaccinated and do not have symptoms. In this case they will receive a call from a contact tracer who will arrange to have a package sent in the regular post to their home.

The package will contain five test kits, each consisting of a sterile swab, a pre-filled extraction tube with a dropper tip, and a test cassette. It also comes with information on how to use the test.

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You're advised to take the first test on the day you receive it. Here's how:

Using an antigen test

  • Place the tube with the solution in the test kit hole for stability, remove the swab from its packaging.
  • Gently insert the absorbent end into your left nostril about 2cm and roll it around about 5 times getting good contact with insides of your nostril.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Dip the absorbent end of the swab in to the solution and roll it around well, about 6 times.
  • Leave it in the tube to rest for about a minute.
  • Remove the swab and secure the tube with the lid provided.
  • Place four drops of the solution into the testing device, then wait.

Your results will show in 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes, you should hope see this. One line on the C, means a negative result. Two lines, one on C and one on T would indicate a positive result.

The pack will contain five rapid tests, you should take the second test two days after the first and the third test two days after the second one. The other two are there as spares.

If no lines at all register, the test is invalid and you should repeat the whole process with one of the spare tests.

In cases where people have symptoms, they are advised to self-isolate and arrange a PCR test. If ANY of the rapid tests returns a positive result, the person should then also self-isolate and arrange for a PCR test to confirm their result.

The antigen tests are free and applicable to close contacts aged 13 or over. And while they are not as accurate as PCR test, it's hoped that they will significantly help in the attempts to suppress Covid-19 this winter.