Push for widespread rapid antigen tests

Canberra recorded 17 new local infections on Wednesday, with the ACT's active cases rising to 222.
Canberra recorded 17 new local infections on Wednesday, with the ACT's active cases rising to 222.

Australia is being urged to adopt widespread rapid screening to pick up fully vaccinated coronavirus carriers without symptoms who could unknowingly transmit the disease.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has stressed the need for rapid antigen swabs that return results within 20 minutes to catch asymptomatic infections as vaccination coverage increases.

"One of the worries moving forward is that fully vaccinated people, a lot of them will be asymptomatic," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"They'll be carriers of the virus and they'll infect other people, but they won't even know they've got it."

Canberra recorded 17 new local infections on Wednesday, with the ACT's active cases rising to 222.

Mr Barr foreshadowed an increased role for rapid antigen testing, which can be less accurate but quicker than nose and throat swabs, to weed cases out.

He expects enforcing quarantine for people who got the virus while fully vaccinated will be a challenge across Australia as coverage increases.

While people who are double-dosed are much less likely to die or become serious ill, they can still contract and transmit the virus.

"The obligations around protecting other members of the community, other members of your own family, don't end when you're fully vaccinated," the chief minister said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt is keen for Australia to use home rapid antigen tests when the Therapeutic Goods Administration makes them more widely available.

There are 28 tests approved for use, but they carry conditions around supervision so are largely limited to workplaces.

Home testing is being widely used is the US, Europe and UK.

The TGA earlier this month expressed caution about people giving themselves rapid antigen tests without training.

The ACT is concerned about a drop in the number of people heading to its testing clinics, with just 1988 processed on Tuesday.

Mr Barr is confident its full vaccination coverage will exceed 95 per cent.

Around 56 per cent of the eligible population is double-dosed. The rate for first shots has passed 80 per cent.

Canberra remains in lockdown until October 15.

Just one of the 17 latest cases was in quarantine for their entire infectious period and at least 11 were in the community for some of the time.

There are 12 people in hospital, including two in intensive care requiring ventilation.

The government is spending $50 million over four years to recruit the equivalent of 90 full-time nursing and midwifery roles.

Australian Associated Press