Testing for COVID-19 is carried out in community testing centres and, in some places, by your GP.
On this page, you can find the following information:
- Where can I get a COVID test?
- What are community testing centres?
- Who should be tested for COVID-19?
- How is the COVID test done?
- How do I prepare for a COVID test?
- When can I expect my test results?
If you need a test, you can get one at:
- your general practice (GP) – call ahead before you turn up
- a community testing centre.
Find community testing centre locations by district health board or search for a testing location near you. If you can't see one near you, phone Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or your GP and they will tell you where to go for COVID-19 testing.
The government has set up a number of community testing centres (that were originally called community-based assessment centres or CBACs) around the country to provide safe places to get tested (swabbed) for COVID-19 and to take pressure off GP clinics and emergency departments.
The centres should be well signposted and easy to recognise. Some community testing centres are aligned with a medical centre, with testing in a separate part of the building or in the car park to keep people at a safe distance from each other.
Medical staff use personal protective equipment (PPE) to take the COVID-19 testing swabs. COVID-19 tests are free.
Note that in many places, you can also get a test at your local general practice (GP) – call ahead before you turn up.
If you are unwell
If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, call:
- Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453
- your doctor
- your iwi health provider.
A health professional will let you know the next steps and whether you should get a test.
If you visited a location of interest at the stated time
If you visited a location of interest at a certain time, you must immediately self-isolate at your home or your accommodation and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice. By calling Healthline, you will be added to the contract tracing system and will get your test result back faster. See the Ministry of Health advice on what to do.
If you are not unwell and did not visit a location of interest
When there is an outbreak, there is very high demand for tests from people who have not been to locations of interest and do not have symptoms. These people are not the priority for testing.
- If you were not at a location of interest at the stated times and you have no symptoms, you do not need to be tested.
- If you have symptoms but you did not visit a location of interest, stay home and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice.
Don't go to a medical clinic without phoning first – you may infect other people
For COVID-19 related health concerns call Healthline 0800 358 5453 or your doctor or iwi health provider. If it is an emergency, phone 111 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department. Don't call Healthline for non-health related issues. Find out more about the alert levels and what to do at Unite Against COVID.
COVID-19 is tested for using a nasal swab (you may hear the longer name ‘nasopharyngeal swab’). The test is carried out by a nurse or a doctor. They will be wearing PPE such as a mask, gloves, goggles and a gown.
To do a nasal swab, a small, soft-tipped swab will be inserted into one of your nostrils and twirled a few times until it is covered in secretions. Only a single swab is taken for COVID-19 testing. The swab will be inserted quite a way in to get to the area that will give the best result. This may be a little uncomfortable but should not be painful.
Although a nasal swab is the preferred option for COVID-19 diagnosis, sometimes a throat swab is used.
Note that many of the community testing centres are only doing COVID-19 testing, and no treatment will be provided for other conditions, like a sore throat.
When you go for a test, wear a face covering, scan in using the QR code and, if you have it, take your NHI (National Health Index) number. To find out your NHI number, call 0800 855 066. You can also find it on a hospital letter or prescription receipt.
Test results can usually be expected within 24 to 48 hours, but are likely to take longer when the demand for testing is high. Positive test results are prioritised so you are likely to hear sooner if your test result is positive, but it may take longer if your test result is negative.
In most cases you will be phoned by public health staff if your test is positive, or sent a text if it is negative. Please don't return to the testing centre to get your results or phone Healthline, as they won't be able to help you get your results any sooner.