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With the Omicron-induced rise in COVID-19 cases, people are resorting to Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) to detect a coronavirus infection.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in May 2021, had issued an advisory for self-testing for COVID-19 at home using RAT kits.
But who can use the home testing kit and how will you know the results? We use a kit called 'CoviSelf', manufactured by Pune-based Mylab Discovery Solutions Ltd, to demonstrate.
Who can use the COVID-19 home testing kit?
Home testing by RAT is advised only in symptomatic individuals and immediate contacts of laboratory-confirmed positive cases.
Indiscriminate testing is not advised.
What does the ICMR mean by 'indiscriminate'?
By this, the ICMR means that the home testing kits should not be used randomly, without careful judgment.
How can I take the test at home?
Only a nasal swab is needed for the test.
Individuals aged 18 years and older can take the test. For kids between the age of 2 and 17, an adult must collect the sample.
How does a Rapid Antigen Test compare to an RT-PCR test?
While RT-PCR tests can be expensive and require specialised equipment in labs, and careful transportation, RATs are much more economical and portable.
RT-PCR tests can take 24 hours to process, and a major advantage of the RAT, as mentioned by the ICMR, is that it has a short turnaround time of 15-30 minutes.
Making these testing kits available in the market for self-testing could considerably reduce the burden on RT-PCR testing labs in the country.
Do I need a doctor's prescription to buy the test?
According to ICMR, self-tests are authorised for non-prescription home test. You can buy them in a nearby medical store or online.
How should I prepare for the test?
The CoviSelf website has provided these instructions:
Find a clean place to do the test.
Use a table and sanitise the surface thoroughly.
Wash your hands with soap and dry them before you perform the test.
Tear the pouch and place the contents of the kit on the table.
Before you proceed with the test, please download the Mylab CoviSelf App either on Google Play or App Store and fill in the credentials.
Then, take your nasal swab.
What is the purpose of this app?
All users are advised to click a picture of the test strip after completing the test procedure with the same mobile phone which has been used for downloading the mobile app and user registration.
Data in the app of your mobile phone will be centrally captured in a secure server, which is connected to the ICMR COVID-19 testing portal, where all the data will be eventually stored.
How do I know if the test is positive or negative?
If both Control Line C and the Test Line T appears in the cartridge, presence of novel coronavirus antigen is confirmed and the result is positive.
If only quality Control Line C appears but the Test Line T does not appear, this indicates that novel coronavirus antigen has not been detected and the result is negative.
This takes up to 10-15 minutes for results to appear.
Does this test hurt?
According to Mylab, this test should not hurt. The swab may feel uncomfortable or ticklish, but if you experience pain, stop and consult a healthcare professional.
I took the home test and tested positive. What now?
All individuals who test positive may be considered as true positives, and repeat testing is not required.
All test-positive individuals are advised to follow home isolation and care as per the ICMR & Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) protocols.
I tested negative, but I have symptoms. What now?
All symptomatic individuals who test negative by RAT should get themselves immediately tested by RT-PCR. This is especially important as the RATs are likely to miss a few positive cases presenting with a low viral load.
All RAT negative symptomatic individuals may be treated as suspect COVID-19 cases and are advised to follow the ICMR/MoHFW home isolation protocol while awaiting the RT-PCR test result.
How do I store the test?
Store the test at room temperature, and out of direct sunlight.
Keep out of reach of children.
How do I dispose off the test safely?
Manufacturer’s instructions must be strictly followed for disposal of the test kit, swab, and other materials.
All contents of the kit must be disposed of in the biohazard bag as biohazard waste, according to local regulatory requirements.
A test card that has been outside the sealed kit for more than ten minutes should be discarded.
(This was first published in June 2021 and has been republished from The Quint's archives in light of rising COVID-19 cases.)