How Reliable are COVID-19 Rapid Tests for Detecting Omicron? 


A new SARS-CoV-2 variant namely Omicron has been causing surges in different parts of the world even before the World Health Organization has declared it a divergent virus of concern. With it, scientists and medical health practitioners raised questions about the effectiveness of rapid tests. As a result, this concern puts a massive burden on healthcare systems.

Amid the testing efficacy concerns, pre-departure COVID tests are continually implemented primarily in the travel and tour industry. As for everyday citizens, this raised inquiries about the effectiveness of home PCR tests in detecting the new strain.

COVID rapid antigen tests use lateral flow technology to determine if the presence of the virus was prominent. However, its effectiveness became the centre of discussion among scientists and health experts during the surge of the Omicron Variant.

They observed that upon testing, specifically of the Omicron variant, several lateral flow devices seemed to result in lag detection. These cases turn out positive in PCR tests. This caught the attention of different health security agencies, prompting immediate monitoring of these devices’ performance.

Here are ways to ensure that rapid tests produce accurate results upon use:

  • Go for a rapid antigen test when symptomatic. The best time to get tested is on day two of experiencing symptoms.
  • Should you be symptomatic but the test outcome marked negative, wait another day or two to see if the viral load in your body have doubled. If it folded, the result could give you a positive yield. 
  • If the person is still highly symptomatic despite taking two rapid antigen tests that resulted in a negative result, they are recommended to go for a PCR test.

Check out this infographic by Harley Medic International for more information about rapid antigen test effectivity.