How Reliable Are Covid-19 Rapid Tests for Detecting Omicron?

Ever since the advent of the pandemic, several problems have arisen. The virus has immensely affected and placed a massive burden on several industries, especially the health and economic sector. These two sectors have taken the most blow. And until today, everyone can still feel the pandemic’s effect on these industries. Due to this, it is only understandable why everyone desperately wishes for this to end. But this seems impossible to happen right away, especially with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement as they have declared another variant of concern–Omicron.

Also known as B.1.1.529, Omicron is characterized by between 26 and 32 mutations in the spike protein, which are located within the receptor-binding domain (RBD). Within the past two years of battling COVID, the world has been introduced to several variants, such as Alpha, Beta, and Delta strains. However, the newest variant, Omicron, is currently detected as the most heavily mutated and highly contagious strain. This is why testing is more important than ever.

Fortunately, the health care industry was able to develop many testing kits that can help detect COVID-19. Furthermore, they have also developed vaccine shots aimed to strengthen people’s immune systems. However, the virus is constantly mutating. This means that the vaccines and test kits developed before may not be as effective in combating Omicron. Because of that, several questions were raised. And one of those questions is whether or not the rapid antigen test is practical for identifying the Omicron variant. 

Rapid antigen tests, also known as lateral flow tests, are designed to detect the viral proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus through nasopharyngeal and nose swabs. Typically, this type of test can produce quick results. This is why it is ideal and more commonly used for Day 2 and 8 Tests, a mandatory test for those visiting Europe. 

But despite being commonly used, rapid antigen testing is still less reliable than PCR tests. While they can detect Omicron, the US Food and Drug Administration or the FDA has shared that antigen tests have reduced sensitivity. On the other hand, the UK Health Security Agency tentatively concluded that lateral flow devices had shown comparable sensitivity to Omicron, the same way it did with the different variants. 

While the research about whether rapid antigen testing is less effective in picking up Omicron cases, it can still be used for preventive purposes. Moreover, you can still produce results with greater accuracy if the infected individual is symptomatic.

The symptoms of Omicron include sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue, and sneezing. If you experience any of this, it is advisable to wait a day or two for symptoms before using the test. Meanwhile, if you are symptomatic but tested negative on the first test, you can wait a day or two before taking another test. But if you still tested negative after the second test despite experiencing symptoms, consider getting tested for the third time with a PCR test.


Given all these, it is proven that rapid antigen tests can provide helpful information and can still detect Omicron variants. However, you must keep in mind that false negative results can happen. So regardless of being tested or not, it is critical to isolate yourself immediately if you are experiencing any symptoms. This is not only for your safety but, more significantly, for the people around you.

If you are wondering where to avail of affordable and trustworthy COVID-19 testing kits, such as Rapid Antigen Test for Travel, you can get in touch with Harley Medic International through their website. Furthermore, if you want to know more about COVID tests, you can read more through this infographic created by Harley Medic International.