Where can I get a COVID test?

Testing for COVID-19 is carried out in community testing centres and, in some places, by your GP. Free rapid antigen tests (RATs) are also being rolled out to community testing centres around the country.

On this page, you can find the following information:

Where can I get a COVID test?

If you need a test, they are available from various places including:

  • At your general practice (GP) – call ahead before you turn up.
  • At a community testing centre. 
  • Some businesses can provide their workers with rapid antigen tests (RATs) as long as they don't have symptoms.
  • Free rapid antigen tests (RATs) are also being rolled out to community testing centres around the country. They will all soon be available to buy from retail outlets so you can test yourself and your whānau at home.

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.

What are community testing centres?

The government has set up a number of community testing centres around the country to provide safe places to get tested (swabbed) for COVID-19, and to take pressure off GP clinics and emergency departments. 

Note that community testing centres are only set up for COVID-19 testing. No treatment will be provided for other conditions, like a sore throat.

Community testing centres should be well signposted and easy to recognise. Some community testing centres are located at a medical centre, with testing done in a separate part of the building or in the car park. This is to keep people at a safe distance from each other. If you are in Auckland and want to check the latest wait time at some testing sites see the website Time In The Line

Note that in many places, you can also get a test at your local general practice (GP) but call ahead before you turn up. 

To find out more about whether you should get tested, see 
do I need to get tested for COVID-19? 

How is the COVID test done?  

PCR test
The COVID-19 PCR test is done with 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 personal protective equipment (PPE) which includes a mask, gloves, goggles and a gown. This protects them and you.

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 the COVID-19 tests available. 

RAT test
Increasingly, COVID-19 testing is being done through rapid antigen testing. A rapid antigen test (RAT) is generally taken with a front of nose swabIt can be done in hospitals, medical centres, pharmacies, workplaces and at home. Tests can be carried out under supervision, or you can do it yourself. Read more about RATs.

How do I prepare for a COVID test?

If you need to have a test done at a testing centre, you will need to:

  • wear a face covering
  • scan into the testing centre using the QR code
  • take your NHI (National Health Index) number if you have it
  • provide contact details so that you can get your test results.

To find out your NHI number, call 0800 855 066. You can also find it on a hospital letter or prescription receipt. It starts with three letters and ends with four numbers.

There may be a queue so be prepared to wait. Take a book with you, do a sudoku, listen to a podcast or try a crossword. Make sure you have enough water in your car for you and your family/whānau, especially if it’s a hot day.

When can I expect my test results?

If you are awaiting test results, stay home and isolate until you get a negative test result.

PCR test results are usually ready within 2–5 days, depending on demand. Positive test results are prioritised so you are likely to hear sooner if your test result is positive, meaning that you have COVID-19. It may take longer if your test result is negative. In most cases you will be notified by text if your test is positive or negative. If you test positive, you will get further information about what to do next and tools to help you manage your symptoms. Please don't return to the testing centre or phone Healthline to get your results. They won't be able to help you get your results any sooner as they do not have access to your results.

RAT results are available in about 15 to 20 minutes.

Learn more

Covid-19 education Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
COVID-19 testing
 Unite Against COVID-19, NZ
Testing centres around Aotearoa Healthpoint, NZ
Rapid antigen tests – rats Ministry of Health, NZ

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Janine Bycroft, GP, Auckland Last reviewed: 05 Nov 2021