How COVID-19 testing works
Find out if you need to take a PCR test for COVID-19, and what to do before and after a test.
Register a positive rapid antigen test result
Most people no longer need to get a PCR (nose and throat swab) test if they have COVID-19 symptoms or are a household, social, workplace or education contact of a positive case.
Anyone who tests positive with a rapid antigen test must:
- register their test result with Service NSW to understand their risk and access support from NSW Health
- self-isolate and follow the NSW Health advice for testing positive.
Testing clinic capacity
Large volumes of COVID-19 PCR tests are currently being processed. NSW Health is working hard to meet testing demand and is increasing capacity where possible.
What to know about testing changes
A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is a nose and throat swab test performed at a clinic to diagnose COVID-19.
Most people no longer need a PCR test to confirm they have COVID-19 in NSW. Before getting a PCR test, check which COVID-19 test you need.
Before your PCR (nose and throat swab) test
If you proceed with PCR testing, check the details of each testing clinic to confirm:
- the opening hours
- whether you need to make a booking
- if children can be tested
- whether a referral from your GP is required
- there is wheelchair access if needed
- if the clinic is drive-through and you need to stay in your car for the test
COVID-19 PCR testing is available across NSW at:
- COVID-19 clinics which are set up especially for testing
- some private pathology sites
- some GPs or local doctors.
You will need to bring one form of identification with you.
Get to the clinic with enough time before it closes for staff to explain the process and answer any questions.
What happens when you get a PCR 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.
The test is safe, free and you do not need a Medicare card.
A PCR test is usually a bit uncomfortable but not painful.
The test is for COVID-19 but some clinics may test for other respiratory viruses.
The COVID-19 swabs are not tested for drugs, cancer, or anything else.
What to do after your PCR 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.
- 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.
Getting your PCR test results
When you take your COVID-19 test, register to receive your results by SMS text message.
You will normally receive results in 1 to 3 days.
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 3 days, call the provider on the COVID-19 results hotline.
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 7 days or
- you are caring for someone who has COVID-19.
Find out if you are eligible for
If you test positive for COVID-19
Most people with COVID-19 will have a mild illness and will recover after a few days. Learn how to safely manage COVID-19 at home.