How COVID-19 testing works
Find out what to do before and after a test.
Register a positive rapid antigen test result
If you test positive with a rapid antigen test, it is recommended that you:
What COVID-19 test should I get?
If you are at higher risk of severe illness, you should get a PCR test.
If you are not at higher risk of severe illness, do a rapid antigen test unless your doctor advises you to get a PCR test.
If you're unsure, 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
PCR testing is available across NSW at:
- COVID-19 clinics (these 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 and usually free.
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
It is recommended that you go home and limit your contact with other people until you receive your result. To further reduce your risk of passing an infection to others:
wear a mask when indoors and on public transport, if you must leave your home
avoid large gatherings and indoor crowded places
don't visit people at high risk of severe illness, anyone in hospital, or an aged or disability care facility
if you share a home with other people
separate yourself from them as much as possible
when you are at home with others, spend time in separate rooms if you can
it is recommended that you wear a face mask when you are in the same room as another person and
keep 1.5m away from each other
practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often. Cover your coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow or a tissue.
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. Learn more about when to visit an emergency department or who to call for non-urgent medical advice.
It is important to know your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 (this may be the case if you are over 70 years of age, or have a chronic health condition). Check with your doctor or visit People at higher risk of severe COVID-19.
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, if you were tested at a public hospital. You will be prompted to:
- enter your mobile number to receive a one time passcode (OTP)
- 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 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.