COVID-19 community based assessment centres (CBACs)

Testing for COVID-19 is being carried out in community based assessment centres (CBACs) in some areas. In some places, COVID-19 tests are now being carried out by your GP.

What are community based assessment centres (CBACs)?

The Government has set up a number of community based assessment centres (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 CBACs 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.

Please don’t visit a CBAC if you have not been asked to by your GP or by Healthline – this will keep you and others safe. 

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

Who the Government has asked to get tested has changed over the weeks to make sure the right people are tested and there is enough healthcare staff and equipment to do the testing.

The current testing criteria include anyone with the following symptoms: cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, head cold or loss of smell, with or without fever. This is regardless of whether you have been overseas or not.

This means more people will now be tested. It's important to remember that the above is a guide for health professionals, who will continue to use their clinical judgment to decide when people need to be tested.

Some CBACS are "pop-ups" designed to test people with no symptoms (asymptomatic). You do not need an appointment to visit these CBACs. They will be clearly marked and located in places like supermarket car parks.

How do I know if I need to be tested?

If you have ANY of the symptoms listed above, you should phone your medical centre, or the free COVID-19 Healthline number on 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs). They will advise you whether you need to be tested and explain whether to go to your doctor or to a CBAC for a swab test. 

The process is slightly different in each area, so follow the local advice you are given. For some areas, such as Christchurch, you must have an appointment time and cannot just turn up at a CBAC. 

How do I know whether there is a CBAC in my area?

Phone Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or your GP and they will tell you where to go for COVID-19 testing. Find out more information about testing in your region

How is the COVID test done?  

It's important that you follow the instructions given by healthcare providers when going for a test at a CBAC. This helps to protect you and the healthcare staff working at the CBAC. 

The following video gives you an idea about what the testing process is like at a CBAC. Please note that this video is specific for Canterbury DHB and the process might not be exactly the same for other DHBs. For information specific to your DHB, visit the Government's Unite against COVID-19 website

 (Pegasus Health, NZ, 2020)

For more videos in other languages, visit the Pegasus Health website

What is the test for COVID-19?

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. Read more about nasal swab test

Note that many of the CBACs are only doing COVID-19 testing, and no treatment will be provided for other conditions, like a sore throat.

If you have any breathlessness, or other medical conditions that make you unwell, you will need to contact your GP or the free Healthline number 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) if you are unsure what to do. For all other health problems that are not flu or cold-like, please use the standard Healthline number 0800 611 116.

When can you expect your test results?

Test results can be expected within 24–48 hours, but may take longer. Please don't return to the testing centre to get your results. You will notified by phone or text. In most cases you will be phoned by public health staff if your test is positive, or sent a text if it is negative.

If, after a few days, you have not heard anything, please call the clinic where you were tested but do not call Healthline as they won't be able to help you with this.

Learn more

COVID-19 testing Unite against COVID-19, NZ
COVID-19 – Community based assessment centres (CBAC) HealthInfo Canterbury, NZ

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.