Testing for COVID-19

Introduction

COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. To find out if you have COVID-19, you must be tested by an official healthcare worker at a special COVID-19 test centre.

Who can get tested?

You may be tested for COVID-19 if you have developed at least one of these symptoms:

  • Fever (high temperature)
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of taste or smell

Or

You have been in close contact with a confirmed case (even if you do not have symptoms). In this case, you will be phoned by a ‘contact tracer’ who will arrange your appointment for you.

How to get tested for COVID-19

If you think you might have COVID-19, you should phone your GP. Do not go to the GP clinic. If you do not have a GP, you can find a GP in your area.

Your GP will carry out an assessment over the phone. This assessment is free for everyone (including non-medical card holders).

If your doctor thinks you need a COVID-19 test, they will arrange the test for you. You will be sent your appointment details by text message (including the exact location and time of your appointment).

You should self-isolate while waiting for your appointment. This means you stay indoors and avoid contact with other people.

COVID-19 testing

The test for COVID-19 is simple and usually takes 15 minutes (or less). If you cannot drive yourself to the test centre, you can ask someone from your household to take you.

If you cannot attend a test centre, you may be tested at home.

When you arrive at a test centre, a healthcare worker will:

  • Confirm your identity and contact details
  • Give you a face mask to wear
  • Explain what will happen next

If you are at a drive-thru test centre, you will be asked to stay in your car. A healthcare worker will come to the vehicle and do the test through the window.

If you are at a regular test centre, the healthcare worker will take you into the test centre.

The test

You will be asked to blow your nose into a tissue. This can be thrown into a bin bag provided.

The healthcare worker will then use a swab (similar to a long cotton bud) to take a sample from the back of your throat and nose. You may feel some discomfort during the swabbing, but it is not painful.

The healthcare worker will then send your sample to a lab where it will be tested for COVID-19.

Waiting for your results

You should continue to self-isolate while you are waiting for your results.

You should also make a list of everyone you had close contact with during the last 14 days. If your results are positive, a ‘contact tracing team’ will ask you for their names and contact details.

COVID-19 test results and contact tracing

If you have tested negative for COVID-19, you will receive your results by text message. You do not have to self-isolate any longer.

If you test positive for COVID-19, your results will be explained to you over the phone. The Health Service Executive (HSE) website explains what your test results mean.

You will also be asked for the names and contact details of anyone you have been in close contact with over the last 14 days. These people will then be contacted by a ‘contact tracer’ who will tell them to self-isolate, even if they do not have symptoms. This process is known as contact tracing.

Page edited: 16 June 2020