Testing for COVID-19
There are two ways to test for COVID-19:
- PCR tests are done by a healthcare worker in a hospital, your GP or a private company. They send your sample to a lab where it is tested for COVID-19.
- Antigen tests are tests you can do yourself at home. The test sample does not have to go to a lab and you usually get your results in 15 minutes. Antigen tests are quicker but less reliable than a PCR test. In some cases, they may not detect the virus. You can buy antigen tests in pharmacies and supermarkets.
You can no longer book a PCR test or order antigen test online through the HSE.
Do I need a COVID-19 test?
You do not need to get a COVID-19 test unless your GP or a healthcare worker in a hospital advises you to be tested. They will then arrange a test for you.
Read about what you should do if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
You should contact your GP if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and an underlying condition which puts you at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
You can buy antigen tests in most pharmacies and many supermarkets if you wish to take a test.
Healthcare workers and COVID-19 testing
Can I get a COVID-19 test for travelling?
COVID-19 tests for travel abroad are not provided in the public health system. Airlines will not accept a HSE test result for travel. If you need a letter for travel, you need to have a negative test from a private company.
Getting a PCR test with a GP
Your GP will no longer refer you to a PCR test centre.
If you are a vulnerable patient, your GP may test you for COVID-19 at their clinic. If you have a medical card or GP visit card this will be free. If you are a private patient, you will have to pay a fee.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 do not go to the GP clinic. You should phone your GP if your breathing changes or becomes difficult, or your cough gets worse.
COVID-19 test results
Positive COVID-19 test result
If you get a positive COVID-19 test result, you should:
- Self-isolate (stay in your room) and avoid contact with people for 5 days
- Avoid contact with people at higher risk from COVID-19 for 10 days after testing positive
You no longer need to report your positive antigen result.
Negative COVID-19 test result
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and you get a negative antigen or PCR test result, this does not mean that you do not have COVID-19. It just means that the virus was not found on the sample that was taken.
You no longer need to report your negative antigen result.
Children and COVID-19 testing
Most children do not need to get tested for COVID-19. Antigen tests are not recommended for children under the age of 4. You can read what to do if your child has symptoms of COVID-19 on the HSE website.
If your child tests positive for COVID-19, they should stay at home for 3 full days from the day their symptoms began and avoid contact with other people.
Check when to keep your child home from school or childcare and when they can return after isolation.
If your child has symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive you can read about caring for young children who cannot self-isolate.
You may need to prove that you have recovered from COVID-19 or have been vaccinated for COVID-19 if you wish to travel abroad.
You can no longer get an EU Digital COVID Certificate (DCC). However, the HSE will still give you evidence of your COVID-19 vaccination after you have been vaccinated.
If you want more information about COVID-19 vaccination certificates, visit the HSE website or call HSElive on 1800 700 700.