Technology isn’t always about 5G and wireless charging. 5G may have been a poor choice to start this article with, but let’s keep going. Today, Lidl announced that they would start selling rapid COVID-19 antigen tests across the country. One of the more welcome items in the “weird aisle”, these “peace of mind” tests are a great addition to Ireland’s new reopening plan. The tests are not recognised for travel or as reliable as PCR tests used by the HSE, but they can offer a quick test to check for COVID-19. I actually used one of these over the Christmas period so here’s everything you need to know.
Are The Government Providing Free COVID-19 Testing?
Right now, you can indeed get referred by your GP for free COVID-19 PCR testing should you display any symptoms. If you do not have any symptoms, you can attend a walk-in test centre if you have one nearby. If you can’t do either of these, your options are private testing or antigen testing.
What Is Antigen Testing?
Unlike PCR testing, antigen tests do not need to go to a lab and can be administered at home. These are also referred to as “rapid diagnostic tests” or RADTs.
Where Can I Buy A COVID-19 Antigen Test?
From May 7th, Lidl will be selling COVID-19 antigen tests in their 168 stores nationwide. A pack of five tests will set you back €24.99 and due to an expected large demand, each customer will be limited to purchasing five packs of test each. That means you can purchase a total of 25 tests for €125.
I gave a quick look online for other websites selling similar antigen tests where packs of ten would cost you €130, so Lidl is offering these at a very reasonable price.
Are Covid-19 Antigen Tests Accurate?
No test for COVID-19 is 100% accurate. All we have is a range of tests capable of indicating some additional insights into our health. Antigen testing is not as accurate as the PCR test, which is a requirement for international travel and arrival in Ireland. Antigen testing can struggle to identify cases of COVID-19 where symptoms are not present.
Antigen testing can also have benefits over the most sensitive PCR testing. Check out these great video Alex shared.
So Why Use Antigen Tests During The Pandemic?
The idea behind antigen tests is that testing more regularly, even with the lower accuracy of antigen tests, can help us all better understand when we should isolate and/or get a PCR test. Antigen tests are often referred to as “peace of mind” tests because they are more accessible than PCR tests and provide a quick confirmation that you’re unlikely to have COVID-19.
I have to stress, antigen tests are not as accurate in detecting COVID-19 and are not a substitute for social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands along with following all government guidelines.
The Lidl COVID-19 Antigen Test
The test Lidl will be stocking has to be considered one of the coolest pieces of technology we’ve seen in a while. Manufactured by Boson Biotech, the test lets you live the life of a full-on scientist in your own home! While that’s very cool, there are some important steps you need to take to look after your test but also to ensure you give it the best chance of detecting COVID-19 if you are sick.
How To Store A COVID-19 Antigen Test
First of all, as soon as you buy your test and bring it home, it’s important you store it right. Every test is good for about 18-months once stored correctly at room temperature.
What Is In The Lidl Test Kit
When you open the Boson Biotech kit, you’ll find a few bits and pieces inside. Included is:
- Sealed long medical swab
- Extraction tube
- Extraction liquid
- Sealed test strip
Along with these items, you’ll also need some tissues and cleaning products for your work surface and hands. Also, one item missing from these kits is a stand for the extraction tube. Be sure to find something to hold the tube before you start.
Once you’ve identified all of these items, it’s time to get testing.
How To Use A Lidl COVID-19 Antigen Test
You can carry out the test on your own, but I personally found it easier to have someone help me. One of the reasons being that they really need to “get in there” with the swab and someone else will likely do a better job with the angles than you will!
Once your ready to start here’s what you need to do.
Starting The Swab Process
- Clear a space on your table and give it a good clean.
- Wash and sanitise your hands
- Stand the extraction tube somewhere
- Open the sealed test strip
- Open the extraction fluid
- Pour the extraction fluid into the extraction tube
- Take a tissue and blow your nose
- Wash and dry your hands again. You can also use hand sanitiser
- Open the long swab package ensuring you don’t touch the soft tip
- Next is the highlight of the show. Taking the sample, so let’s break.
How To Take An Antigen Swab Sample
This is the bit some people might not like. I’ve had a wide variety of people shove swabs up my nose and down my throat, from my better half to big burly soldiers. None of them has done me any harm. At worst, it feels a little uncomfortable but it’s really important to do this bit right.
For these tests available from Lidl, you need to swap the back of your throat and you need to take a nasal swab too It’s important the tip does not touch your teeth, tongue or gums.Look for the tonsils or where they would have been.
- Open your mouth wide
- Swab your tonsils or where your tonsils should have been
- Swab the area 4 times
- Using the same swab, you now need to swab the inside of your nose
- Insert the swab into your nose until you feel resistance
- This will be about an inch but less for kids
- Give it a ten swivels in place and then remove
Testing Your Swab
Now that you’ve done all of that it’s time to finalise the test.
- Open the extraction tube
- Place the swab into the tube
- Swivel it in the fluid for 15-seconds
- Pinch the tube to “grab” the swab
- Pull the swab through the pinched tube
- This ensures all fluid is removed from the swab
- Close the extraction tube again
- The extraction tube will let you apply droplets of your test sample to the test strip
- Apply two drops to the section marked “S” on the test strip
- Set a timer for 20-minutes
Interpreting Your Antigen Result
Now that you’ve done all that and waited for the full 20-minutes, it’s time to take a look at your test result. If you see just the one line beside the “C”, your result is negative. Two lines, one on “C” and one on “T”, means your result is positive for COVID-19.
What To Do When Antigen Test Is Negative
If your result is negative, its important to remember that these tests are not 100% accurate and not as accurate as PCR tests. A negative result isn’t a guarantee you are free COVID-19. It’s crucial that even with a negative test you adhere to all government guidelines, practice social distancing, wear a mask and try to stay in well ventilated areas, preferably outdoors.
What To Do When Antigen Test Is Positive
Antigen testing can produce false positives. However, you should assume the test is accurate in the event your result is positive. This means the test has identified COVID-19 in your test. The HSE suggests that should someone have a positive antigen test, they should self-isolate. But this isn’t really for a test scenario where you’ve bought a kit to do at home yourself. In the UK, guidance is that your whole home should isolate together, which makes sense. After seeking clarity from the HSE we were told the following:
In the event of someone having a positive antigen test at home, “they should immediately self isolate and contact their GP for a confirmatory PCR test. They should take the PCR result as the confirmed result”.
Regarding a scenario where an antigen test is positive in the a multi-person home, “they would be considered close contacts and should follow that guidance (which is to restrict movements) until the PCR result returns and then act in accordance with that result”.
What To Do When Antigen Test Is Something Else
These tests can also just fail. If you get a single line on “T” or no lines at all, the test has failed.
Watch: How To Do A COVID-19 Antigen Test
In this video from the UK Department of Health and Social Care, you get to see a similar kit being used to administer a home antigen test. It’s not quite the same kit you can buy from Lidl, but it’s similar. Well worth a look before you do your test.
Update: Holohan Concerned With Lidl Selling Antigen Tests
At today’s Department of Health briefing, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan, when questioned about Lidl selling antigen tests, said he was “very concerned” about people purchasing antigen tests and believing they are completely free from COVID-19. Holohan said he wouldn’t comment on supermarkets selling the tests as they were free to do so, but said it’s important we understand what people do with the tests.
While Holohan believed there is a place for antigen tests, their use should only be in a controlled environment according to the CMO. The risk these tests bring are false reassurances and Holohan went so far as to say they are “strongly advising people – don’t buy these and don’t use them”.
Updates: This article was updated 7/5/2021 to reflect guidance for home antigen tests and comments from CMO on antigen testing.