Symptoms and getting tested

Symptoms of COVID-19

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath.

Less common symptoms are loss of smell, loss of taste, runny nose, muscle pain, joint pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.

Symptoms can develop between two to 14 days after you are exposed to the virus.

Most commonly, symptoms develop five or six days after exposure.

Getting tested

Seek medical attention if you feel unwell and develop any symptoms of COVID-19.

Get tested for COVID-19 if you have:

  • a fever of 37.5 degrees or higher (or recent history of fever such as chills or night sweats)
  • and/or a respiratory infection, such as shortness of breath, cough or sore throat.

If you have other symptoms , you may be eligible for testing after you see a health professional.

Testing of people without symptoms may be recommended in specific circumstances, including:

  • for people in hotel quarantine after returning from overseas
  • in outbreaks in high-risk settings for example, aged care facilities
  • as part of public health investigations where the source of a person’s exposure to COVID-19 is uncertain.

Call your GP and tell them you think you may have COVID-19.

Your GP will provide advice and plan for your visit or arrange a telehealth consultation.

You should not visit your GP without calling ahead.

Testing will be arranged by your GP if they decide it is necessary.

If you can’t contact your GP or if you don’t have a regular GP, you can visit a Respiratory Assessment Clinic.

Don’t visit the Emergency Department unless you have severe symptoms.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain or a severe fever, call triple zero (000).

Tell them you’re worried you may have COVID-19.

For more information, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

If you live in NSW, visit the NSW Government COVID-19 website for information about getting tested in NSW.

Before being tested

Take steps to reduce the risk of transmission when seeking medical attention.

Limit your exposure to other people while you are unwell.

While you have symptoms, stay home except for when you need to seek medical attention.

When travelling to and from getting tested, do not go to any public places such as shops, caf├ęs or restaurants or your workplace.

If possible, use a private mode of transport, such as a private car.

If you need to travel to get tested using public transport, rideshare or taxi, you should wear a mask (if you have one) and practise physical distancing as much as possible.

Respiratory assessment clinic locations

Respiratory assessment clinics

Anyone with serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain or severe fever should call triple zero (000).

No appointment required

Weston Creek Walk-in Centre
24 Parkinson St, Weston
Open 7:30am to 10:00pm daily, including public holidays

Please use a mask and hand sanitiser available at the front door.

Children of any age can be tested at the Weston Creek Walk-in Centre.

Children under two years can only be seen at the Weston Walk-in centre when a GP is rostered on shift.

Please call (02) 5124 8080 before visiting to confirm a GP is available.

Drive Through Respiratory Assessment Clinic at Exhibition Park in Canberra
EPIC, Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue, Mitchell
Open 9:30am to 5:00pm daily (last car accepted at 5pm) including public holidays

This clinic cannot be accessed from public transport or on foot.

You must be a driver or a passenger in a registered motor vehicle or motorbike to attend this clinic.

Please note that children under the age of eight cannot be tested at the Drive Through Respiratory Assessment Clinic at EPIC.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Respiratory Clinic
63 Boolimba Crescent, Narrabundah
Open 9:30am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday

The Winnunga Nimmityjah Respiratory Clinic provides a culturally appropriate assessment and testing centre for First Nations people and existing clients of Winnunga. Testing is available for people of any age.

Before visiting, please call ahead on (02) 6284 6222 to let them know you think you may have COVID-19.

By appointment

1/5 Baratta Street, Crace
Open 1:00pm to 5:00pm, Monday to Friday

Please call (02) 6109 0000 to book an appointment or book an appointment online. Testing is available for people of any age.

Lakeview Medical Practice Tuggeranong
1/216 Cowlishaw Street, Greenway
Open 9:00am to 1:00pm and 2:00pm to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday

Please call (02) 6185 1986 to book an appointment or book an appointment online. Testing is available for people of any age.

After being tested, while you wait for your results

You will be told if you are well enough to return home or if you need to be hospitalised while you wait for results.

If you are well enough to return home and you are considered high risk, you need to isolate at home until you get your result.

You are considered high risk if you have (in the 14 days prior to developing symptoms):

  • travelled overseas or interstate
  • had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • worked in healthcare, aged care, or other residential care facility with direct patient contact.

Please note that interstate travel does not include people who live in New South Wales (NSW) close to the ACT and come to the ACT regularly for work or leisure, or ACT residents who travel to areas NSW close to the ACT for work or leisure.

If you do not meet any of these criteria, you need to stay  at home until your symptoms resolve.

If you are not considered high risk and your symptoms resolve before you get your test result, you do not need to stay at home.

However, you should not visit hospitals or aged care facilities until you receive your result.

If you were in quarantine before you got tested (due to recent overseas travel or being a close contact of a COVID-19 case), you must still complete your full 14-day quarantine period as advised by ACT Health, even if you get a negative test result.

If you need medical attention while waiting for your results, follow the advice on the Isolation information page.

Test results

If your result is positive, you will usually receive the result in one to two days.

The Communicable Disease Control (CDC) Section of ACT Health will contact you and give you advice about what you need to do.

If your result is negative, you will usually receive the result in two to four days.

You may receive negative results in a text message or over the phone, depending on where you are tested.

If you do not receive your results within this time:

  • contact the GP who ordered your test or the clinic that collected the swab
  • if you were tested at the Weston Creek Walk-in Centre or the Drive Through Respiratory Assessment Clinic at EPIC, you can call (02) 5124 5574 to ask for your test result. Please note that this service is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Negative results

If you were already in quarantine

You would be in quarantine if you have recently returned from overseas or you are a close contact of a COVID-19 case.

If your result is negative, you still need to complete your 14 days of quarantine  .

Keep monitoring your health.

If you develop new or worsening symptoms, you may need to be tested again.

Contact your GP or visit a Respiratory Assessment Clinic.

If you were not in quarantine

You can return to your usual activities, but only after you are well again.

Positive results

Communicable Diseases Control (CDC)  will contact you to provide advice and identify people you may have had contact with while you were infectious.

CDC and your treating medical team will determine whether you need to be managed in hospital or  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    .

You must remain in self-isolation until CDC advises you that it’s safe to return to normal activities.

CDC will contact you regularly while you are in self-isolation.

If you have close contact with someone with COVID-19

A close contact is:

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

Communicable Diseases Control (CDC)  will identify close contacts of COVID-19 cases  .

If you are a close contact, you need to quarantine at home.

Monitor your health while in quarantine and get tested if you develop symptoms .

CDC will contact you regularly until 14 days   after your last exposure with the infectious person.

If you think you are a close contact and you haven’t been called by CDC, you can the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244 .

If you’re not eligible for Medicare

If you are not eligible for Medicare, you may already have travel or visa-specific health insurance.

If you don’t have health insurance, you can get tested free of charge at a Respiratory Assessment Clinic .

If you don’t have health insurance, public hospitals in the ACT will cover the cost of your diagnosis and treatment if you have COVID-19.

The ACT Government has put these arrangements in place to support people in the community who have no private health insurance or have no way to pay for health care for COVID-19.

These arrangements remain in place until the pandemic is over.

Under the arrangements, you can apply for a refund for any medical costs due to COVID-19.

If you have any questions or want to apply for the refund, call the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244 between 8am and 8pm daily.

If making an application for a refund, you will be given a form.

Someone will contact you within 10 business days to process your application.

COVID-19 and the flu

COVID-19 and influenza (flu) are caused by different viruses, but both cause respiratory illness.

The symptoms are often very similar.

You can get both illnesses at the same time, which could make you very sick. To avoid this, get your 2020 flu vaccination.


The key symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath.

The most common symptoms of influenza are fever, cough, sore throat or runny nose, body aches, feeling tired and fatigued and loss of appetite.

For more information on symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza.

For more information about getting tested for COVID-19, visit Getting Tested section .


Both viruses are transmitted in the same way .

This means that the same public health measures are important to prevent both infections.

Visit the Protect yourself page for more information.


An important difference between the two viruses is the incubation time – the time from infection to appearance of symptoms.

The flu typically has a shorter incubation period than COVID-19.

While both viruses can cause severe disease, it appears severe and critical disease occurs more commonly in people with COVID-19.

The flu vaccine and COVID-19

The flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19.

If you get the flu, your immunity may be lowered, making you susceptible to other illnesses like COVID-19.

It is highly recommended that you get vaccinated each year to prevent the flu.

For more information on the flu and getting vaccinated, visit the ACT Health website.

acknowledgement icon
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: June 30 2020