Getting tested

Should I get tested for COVID-19?

You should get tested for COVID-19 if:

  • You recently travelled overseas or on a cruise ship, and have developed symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of returning back to Australia.
  • You have been in contact with someone who has confirmed COVID-19 and you develop symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of last contact.
  • You are a healthcare or aged care worker with recent onset of respiratory symptoms or fever irrespective of travel history.
  • You live in a high risk setting (such as an aged care or other residential care facility, boarding school, military operational setting, correctional facility or detention centre) and have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You have a link to a setting where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in Australia, and have symptoms of COVID-19.

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever (greater than 38°C), cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

If you meet any of the criteria listed above, it’s important that you take steps to reduce the risk of transmission and arrange to get tested. Take the following steps:

  • Limit your exposure to other people by self-isolating yourself at home (if you were not already in quarantine).
  • Call your GP and let them know you’re worried you may have COVID-19. Calling ahead will allow your GP to provide advice and plan for your visit. You should not visit your GP without calling ahead. Testing will be arranged by your GP if they determine it is necessary.
  • If you can’t see your GP, you can visit a Respiratory Assessment Clinic. Staff at these clinics will assess your risk of COVID-19 and test you if needed. You do not need to call ahead.

The ACT Respiratory Assessment Clinics are located at:

  • The Weston Creek Walk-in Centre (24 Parkinson St, Weston). Open 7:30 am – 10:00 pm daily, including public holidays. Please ensure you use a mask and hand sanitiser available at the front door.
  • The Drive Through Respiratory Assessment Clinic at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC, Flemington Rd & Northbourne Ave, Mitchell). Open 9:30 am - 6:00 pm daily (last car accepted at 5pm). You must be driving or a passenger in a registered motor vehicle or motorbike to attend this clinic. It cannot be accessed from public transport or on foot.

When travelling to the GP or Respiratory Assessment Clinic, do not attend any public places, such as shops or cafes/restaurants, on the way. If possible, you should travel using a private mode of transport, such as a private car, to minimise exposure to others.

However, if using public transport is your only option, you should wear a mask, avoid direct contact with other people (including other passengers, drivers and transport staff), cough/sneeze into your elbow, and wash your hands before and after you travel. Please note that you cannot attend the Drive Through Respiratory Assessment Clinic at EPIC from public transport.

You do not need to visit the Emergency Department unless you have severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain or very high fever. If you have serious symptoms, call triple zero (000). Let them know you’re worried you may have COVID-19.

I’m being tested. What next?

Your doctor or other healthcare professional who has organised your COVID-19 test will advise whether you are well enough to return home while you are waiting for your test results, or whether you are sick enough to be hospitalised.

If you have serious symptoms you will be kept in hospital and isolated from other patients to prevent the virus spreading.

If you are well enough to return home, you must self-isolate at home until your test result is available. It may take a few days for the test results to come back.

Self-isolation

  • Remain in your home and do not attend work, school, or any public places, such as shops or cafes or restaurants. Do not have visitors to your home.
  • Practice good hygiene: wash your hands often with soap and water and cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Avoid caring for other members of your household.
  • Wear a mask if close contact with other people in your home is unavoidable.
  • If your symptoms become worse while waiting for your test result, contact your GP for advice. If you have severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or very high fever, you should attend an Emergency Department or call triple zero (000). Let the ambulance or Emergency Department know ahead of time that you have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting your test result.

You can find more information on our Quarantine and isolation information page.

How long do COVID-19 test results take?

Positive results are usually available within 1-2 days

If the swab was negative and was taken at one of Canberra Health Services’ sites you will be sent the results via text message. These take between 2 – 4 days.

Who provides the test results to the consumer?

The service who collected the swab is responsible for communicating the results. Should the swab be positive for COVID-19 the Communicable Disease Control Section of ACT Health will contact the consumer.

You do not need to phone for results. However, if you have not received any communication in 5 days we suggest that you contact the service who took your swab.

What happens if my test is negative?

If your test is negative, and you were already in quarantine prior to being tested (that is, because you recently returned from overseas, or because you are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case), you are still required to complete your 14 day period of quarantine. You should continue to carefully monitor your health. If you develop new or worsening symptoms, you should contact your GP or visit a Respiratory Assessment Clinic. You may need to be tested again.

More information on our Quarantine and isolation information page.

What happens if my test is positive?

If your test is positive for COVID-19, the ACT Communicable Disease Control (CDC) team will contact you to provide advice and to identify people you may have had contact with while you were infectious. CDC, along with your treating medical team, will determine whether you need to be managed in hospital or whether you can be safely managed at home.

CDC will call your contacts and provide them with advice, including what they need to do if they develop symptoms.

If the CDC and your treating medical team determine that you can safely be managed at home, you must remain in self-isolation at home until you are advised that it’s safe to return to normal activities. CDC will be in contact with you regularly while you are in self-isolation.

Please see ACT Health’s isolation information for more details on what it means to be isolated at home.

If your condition deteriorates while you are in self-isolation:

  • Notify CDC on (02) 5124 9213 during business hours or by calling (02) 9962 4155 after hours.
  • Follow the direction of our staff who may advise you to go to a GP or a hospital.
  • If you have serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain or very high fever, call triple zero (000) and request an ambulance. Inform the ambulance officers that you are a confirmed case of COVID-19.

You can find more information on our Quarantine and isolation information page.

I’ve had close contact with someone who has COVID-19

If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, read this information below.

What is a close contact and what do close contacts need to do?

A close contact is:

  • someone who has been face to face with someone who has COVID-19, while that person was infectious, for more than 15 minutes, or
  • someone who has been in the same closed space with someone who has COVID-19, while that person was infectious, for more than 2 hours.

If you are a close contact of a confirmed case, you will need to quarantine at home until 14 days after your last contact with the confirmed case. It’s important that you understand the symptoms of COVID-19 and report to our Communicable Disease Control (CDC) team on (02) 5124 9213 during business hours or (02) 9962 4155 after hours. The CDC will SMS you each day for 14 days after your last exposure with the infectious person to check on your health.

Quarantining at home for people who’ve had close contact with someone who has COVID-19

If you are a close contact of a confirmed case and are quarantined at home, you cannot go to work, school, or public areas, such as shops, cafes or restaurants. You should not have visitors to your home. Remember to practice good hand and general hygiene as this is the best defence against the spread of the virus.

You can find more information on our Quarantine and isolation information page.

Monitor your health closely if you’ve had close contact with someone who has COVID-19

Monitor your health for 14 days after you were last exposed to the infectious person. Watch for these key signs and symptoms:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath

If you develop symptoms:

  • Keep yourself apart from other people as much as possible, for example put yourself in a different room.
  • Wear a mask, if you have one, over your nose and mouth if other people are in the same room as you.
  • Call the ACT Communicable Disease Control (CDC) team on (02) 5124 9213 during business hours or (02) 9962 4155 after hours. We will advise you on what to do next.
  • If you can’t reach us, see a GP as soon as possible. Call your GP before attending and tell them that you’re a contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19. They can then plan for when you arrive to prevent spread of infection to others.

If you can’t see your GP, visit a Respiratory Assessment Clinic. You do not need to call ahead.

The ACT Respiratory Assessment Clinics are located at:

  • The Weston Creek Walk-in Centre (24 Parkinson St, Weston). Open 7:30 am - 10:00 pm daily, including public holidays. Please ensure you use a mask and hand sanitiser available at the front door.
  • The Drive Through Respiratory Assessment Clinic at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC, Flemington Rd & Northbourne Ave, Mitchell). Open 9:30 am – 6:00 pm daily (last car accepted at 5pm), including public holidays. You must be driving or a passenger in a registered motor vehicle or motorbike to attend this clinic. It cannot be accessed from public transport or on foot.

When travelling to the GP or Respiratory Assessment Clinic, do not attend any public places, such as shops or cafes/restaurants, on the way. If possible, you should travel using a private mode of transport, such as a private car, to minimise exposure to others.

However, if using public transport is your only option, you should wear a mask, avoid direct contact with other people (including other passengers, drivers and transport staff), cough/sneeze into your elbow, and wash your hands before and after you travel. Please note that you cannot attend the Drive Through Respiratory Assessment Clinic at EPIC from public transport.

You do not need to visit the Emergency Department unless you have severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain or very high fever. If you develop serious symptoms, call triple zero (000) immediately. Let them know you’ve had close contact with you someone who has COVID-19.

More information:

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

Last Updated: April 02 2020