Rapid testing key in return to work plans
Australia’s TGA approves rapid antigen testing as much of the country moves to a new phase in the pandemic.
Australia’s TGA announced this week new enabling measures to allow COVID-19 rapid antigen point-of-care and self-tests to be used in the country under certain guidelines. The announcement comes amid ongoing changes as east-coast states, New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT look to reopen following weeks of lockdowns.
In these states, ‘covid zero’ is now a thing of the past and the focus has shifted to ensuring both people and businesses have the right tools in place to come out of lockdown with the lowest risk possible.
The role of rapid testing
As per the TGA announcement, Rapid Antigen self-test will be just one part of Australia’s strategy to combat COVID-19. The industry body is in the process of working with stakeholders to ensure:
- Instructions for use are clear and easy to follow
- Appropriate support is available for those taking the test to seek help or ask questions
- The self-tests pass useability criteria
Performance is satisfactory against variants such as Delta
“It is important that the appropriate systems are in place, including by State and Territories, to ensure the reliable use of these tests at home occurs at the earliest possible time, including enabling any consumer who has a positive rapid antigen test result is supported to immediately have a confirmatory PCR test at a COVID-19 testing centre.”
– TGA Australia
Managing risk in the workplace
As workers around the country prepare to either return to the workplace or work with different restrictions, rapid testing can be used as a screening tool to help detect COVID-19 in people without symptoms.
The tests which have been approved in Australia to date, involve using a nasal swab that is placed into a chemical solution. The result is displayed within 15 to 20 minutes.
As per the current TGA guidelines (these are subject to revision as the situation evolves), the tests must be carried out under the supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner. This allows for immediate medical advice to be provided, and ensures the test is carried out appropriately.
The TGA has published a checklist for business in relation to rapid antigen testing, which can be downloaded from their website:
Self-test support via Telehealth
The TGA has outlined that, in certain circumstances, employees would need to conduct their rapid antigen self-tests away from the workplace. In this situation, they recommend the test be conducted under remote supervision.
Telehealth provides an easy-to-use options for businesses to ensure their employees are connected to trained medical practitioners who can provide the resources and guidance required.
Facilitating a telehealth connection for self tests allows:
- Live training can be provided to each person on how to self-collect a sample and how to perform the test as per the instructions
- The results are recorded and reported appropriately
- Crucially, the employee has access to immediate medical care if the test is positive
Choose the right technology for remote test supervision
Privacy, security and confidentiality should be the first consideration with choosing how remote supervision will be facilitated. Dedicated telehealth software will prioritise privacy in a way that mass video collaboration software does not. Consider choosing a technology that meets Australian Privacy Laws.
As per the Australian Government recommendations, video is the preferred method for a telehealth consultation. Video allows for a consultation which is much closer to a real-world meeting. When selecting a video consultation tool, look for the ability to offer diagnostic level resolution through low-bandwidth technology.
User friendly – choose a technology that is easy to use, available in multiple languages and widely accessible from any device or browser.
Connectivity – use a low bandwidth technology so that connectivity issues are minimised.
Regulations and guidance can change over time, please consult the appropriate authorities for the most up to date advice.
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