Testing for COVID-19


To find out if you have COVID-19, you must be tested at a special COVID-19 test centre or in your home. Some people may also get a COVID-19 test in hospital before they have a hospital procedure.

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

You may also be tested if 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.

A close contact can be if:

  • You had face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person for more than 15 minutes
  • You live in the same house or accommodation as an infected person
  • You sat within 2 seats of an infected person, in any direction, on an airplane
  • You spent more than 2 hours in a closed space with an infected person, such as an office or a classroom

If you are a close contact, you should restrict your movements for 14 days, even if you receive a negative COVID-19 test result.

Read about contact tracing and how the COVID Tracker app works.

What to do if you have symptoms of 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 (including for 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).

If your GP thinks that you do not need a test, you should stay at home until you have had no symptoms for 48 hours.

You should self-isolate while waiting for your appointment. This means that you stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. The people in your household should restrict their movements. You can read more about restricted movement and self-isolation.

Getting tested

The test for COVID-19 is simple and usually takes about 15 minutes.

If you are medically unable to attend a test centre, you may be tested at home.

If you cannot drive yourself to a test centre, you can ask a family member or friend to drive you. Read about precautions you can take if someone is driving you to a test centre.

When you arrive at the 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.

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.

Children under 13 only need a nose swab. They do not need a throat swab.

The healthcare worker will 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. If you were tested because you are a close contact and do not have symptoms, you should continue to restrict your movements.

You should also make a list of everyone you had close contact with during the 48 hour period before you developed symptoms. If your results are positive, a ‘contact tracing team’ will ask you for their names and contact details.

If you are offered regular testing because you work or live in a place where infection is more likely, this is called serial testing. If you are getting tested in this way, you can go to work or school as normal unless you get a positive result or develop symptoms.

Test results

Your test results will be sent to you by text message. If you have tested positive, you will get a follow-up phone call. The Health Service Executive (HSE) website explains what your test results mean.

If you had symptoms of COVID-19 and do not get a negative test result, you should continue to self-isolate until:

  • You have had no fever for 5 days and
  • It has been 10 days since you first developed symptoms (or 14 days if you are in long-term residential care or you recently left hospital after treatment for COVID-19)

If you had symptoms of COVID-19 and you get a negative test result, you should continue to self-isolate until you have not had any symptoms for 48 hours.

If you have no symptoms but have tested positive because you are a close contact of a confirmed case, you should self-isolate for 10 days from the date of your test.

If you are a close contact of a confirmed case, you should restrict your movements for 14 days even if you receive a negative COVID-19 test result . This is because it can take up to 14 days for COVID-19 to show up in your system after you have been exposed to it. You will be tested again 7 days after your last contact with the confirmed case.

If you had to restrict your movements because you recently came to Ireland, you should continue to do so for 14 days, even if you receive a negative COVID-19 test result.

You can read more about Returning to Ireland and COVID-19 and what to do if you are travelling to Ireland.

If the test results are for a child, you can read about results of a COVID-19 test for a child under the age of 13.

Page edited: 19 October 2020