Testing for COVID-19
- Do I need a COVID-19 test?
- COVID-19 test results
- Children and COVID-19 testing
- COVID-19 Recovery Certificate
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.
The HSE has instructions on how to do an antigen test at home and a video on how to do an antigen test with a child.
Healthcare workers and COVID-19 testing
The HSE has information about testing for healthcare workers.
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
The HSE website explains what your test results mean. You can read what to do if you get a positive or negative test below.
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
If you get a positive antigen test, you need to report it on the HSE website.
Negative COVID-19 test result
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and you get a negative antigen or PCR test result, you should self-isolate until you have not had any symptoms for 48 hours.
Your negative PCR or antigen test result does not mean that you’ve never had COVID-19. It just means that the virus was not found on the sample that was taken.
If you have a negative antigen test result, you can report your negative antigen result online.
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.
You can watch a video from the HSE on how to use antigen tests with your children.
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.
COVID-19 Recovery Certificate
You may need to prove that you have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 6 months if you wish to travel abroad.
You can apply for a free EU Digital COVID Certificate (DCC) based on your recovery from 11 days after a positive COVID-19 PCR test result. You must have had the positive test within the past 6 months to apply.
When you apply online to the Self Service Portal, you will get your certificate by email within 5 days. Your certificate remains valid for 180 days after the day you tested positive.
If you need help with the Self Service Portal, you can call the DCC helpline on 1800 807 008 or +353 1 903 6437 from outside Ireland.
A positive antigen test cannot be used as proof of recovery to get a COVID-19 recovery certificate.