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 testing centres?
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.
How do I know whether there is a community testing centre in my area?
Find community testing centres around Aotearoa here. 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.
You can also get free COVID-19 tests at your GP clinic. Just phone first so they can keep you and other patients safe.
Who should be tested for COVID-19?
Who should get tested changes at different times to make sure the right people are tested and there are enough healthcare staff and equipment to do the testing. The following is the most up-to-date advice.
If you are in Auckland and you have any symptoms, get a free test at your doctor, Urgent Care Clinic or at one of the community testing centres. If you are unsure whether you should get a test, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453. Call ahead if you are planning to visit your doctor.
However, you can visit a community testing centre without checking with your GP or Healthline.
If you are in the rest of the country and you have cold or flu symptoms, stay home and call:
- Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453
- your doctor, or
- your iwi health provider.
A health professional will advise whether you should get tested. Call your doctor before visiting if you have any symptoms. Tests are free. If you are offered a test, take it.
If you don’t have any symptoms, don’t get a test. This is so that testing centres can test those who most need it.
Symptoms consistent with COVID-19 include new or worsening cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, head cold or loss of smell, with or without fever.
If you are unsure what to do, contact your GP or the free Healthline number 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs). For all other health problems that are not flu or cold-like, please use the standard Healthline number 0800 611 116. For all other queries about COVID-19 that are not health related, such as what to do about the current alert levels, visit Unite Against Covid.
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 community testing centre. This helps to protect you and the healthcare staff working at the community testing centre.
The following video gives you an idea about what the testing process is like at a community testing centre. 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 community testing centres are only doing COVID-19 testing, and no treatment will be provided for other conditions, like a sore throat.
When can you expect your test results?
Test results can usually be expected within 24–48 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.