How COVID-19 testing works
Learn about what happens during a COVID-19 test, getting the result, and what the result means.
What you need to know
The test is safe, free and you do not need a Medicare card.
The test is usually a bit uncomfortable but not painful.
The test is for COVID-19. Some clinics may test for other respiratory viruses.
The COVID-19 swabs are not tested for drugs, cancer, or anything else.
Getting a test
When you select a testing clinic to visit, check the details before you go to see if
- you need to make a booking
- children can be tested at the clinic
- a referral from your GP is required
- there is wheelchair access
- the clinic is drive-through and you need to stay in your car for the test.
You will need to bring one form of identification with you.
While the COVID-19 test is a simple and quick process, get to the clinic with enough time before it closes for staff to explain the process and answer any questions you have.
After your test
Go straight home and self-isolate until you receive your result, unless otherwise advised by NSW Health.
Do not stop off along the way.
If you need groceries or other essential items, ask family or a friend to drop them off at the front door.
If you need to pick up your children, ask another parent or family member to drop them home.
The testing process
Infection with COVID-19 can be diagnosed from a sample taken when you visit a testing clinic.
COVID-19 testing is available across NSW at
- COVID-19 clinics, set up especially for testing
- some private pathology sites
- some GPs (doctors).
A swab is taken at the testing clinic
Testing is free and quick.
- You do not need to prepare for the test.
- You may have your temperature checked when you arrive.
- You need to wear a mask at the clinic and remove it to provide a sample.
- A doctor or nurse will ask if you have any symptoms.
- A sample of fluid is taken from inside your nose and/or your throat using a medical swab.
- The swab is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
- You will normally receive your results within a day or two.
Self-isolate until you receive your results
You must go straight home and self-isolate until you get your COVID-19 test result.
- You cannot leave your home unless it is to seek medical care or because of an emergency.
- You cannot have visitors.
- Monitor how you feel. If symptoms become serious (such as shortness of breath while sitting or difficulty breathing), call Triple Zero (000). Tell the ambulance staff you have been tested for COVID-19. Ambulance services are provided free of charge to people who are suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.
- If you share a home with other people
- Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often. Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.
Learn more about COVID-19 testing.
Getting your results
You will normally get your results in 1 to 3 days.
When you have your COVID-19 test, register to receive your results by SMS text message.
If you were tested at a public hospital
You can securely access your COVID-19 test result by registering for the NSW Health Pathology Results Portal. You will be prompted to:
- Enter your mobile number to receive a OTP (one time passcode)
- Enter the OTP
- Click ‘View results’ to download a PDF copy of your results
You can also share a copy of your personal result report, which has a unique QR code, with authorised third parties such as employers, schools or airlines.
If you were tested at a private clinic
If you have not received your results within 2 days call the provider on the COVID-19 results hotline.
Rapid antigen tests
Rapid antigen tests will be performed onsite in selected workplaces and schools in NSW.
Read more about rapid antigen testing.
If you can't earn money because of COVID-19 restrictions, find out about the financial support available.
Pandemic leave disaster payment
You may be eligible for financial support if you can't earn an income because
- NSW Health has directed you to self-isolate or quarantine for 14 days or
- you are caring for someone who has COVID-19.
Find out if you are eligible for