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Taking the test

Do I need to be tested and what does it involve?

Update: Rapid antigen tests

Everyone’s first option should be to use a rapid antigen test.

They are quick and highly accurate, particularly if you have symptoms or if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

  • If you have symptoms or you are a household or household-like contact, and you can't access a rapid antigen test, you should get a PCR test.
  • If you can't access either test at the moment, isolate at home until you can.

If you test positive on a rapid antigen test, you are a case and you must follow your checklist and report your result. Read Reporting your result for more information.

The remainder of the information on this page will be updated shortly.

Sam, coronavirus patient

For me that runny nose it was absolutely the first thing that happened. It wouldn't have been any more than 12 hours later I was on the couch with those really strong flu-like symptoms. The body aches, the chills, the fever.

Who should get tested?

If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, you should seek advice and get tested.

People with no symptoms can also be tested for COVID-19 in specific circumstances:

  • if they are a close contact exposed to someone known to have COVID-19
  • as part of an outbreak investigation and response by the Department of Health
  • if they are a returned international traveller
  • If they have visited a high risk interstate location
  • if they are due to have surgery or a planned hospital stay
  • if they are part of a targeted testing program across an industry or groupExternal Link

For more information read the factsheet below.

What are the recommendations for testing children?

For information on testing children, visit Assessment and testing criteria for COVID-19External Link

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Fever
  • Chills or sweats
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

In certain circumstances headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also be considered.

To get further advice, call the 24-hour coronavirus hotline 1800 675 398, your local doctor.

What if I feel tired or fatigued?

Feeling tired or fatigued is common during many illnesses, including COVID-19. If you are feeling tired and have any of the symptoms above, you should get further advice about testing for COVID-19.

Why should I get tested?

Diagnosing COVID-19 early, even when symptoms are mild, helps us to slow the spread of COVID-19. Testing helps us track the spread of the virus and keep our families and communities safe.

Getting tested means that you can take informed action to protect yourself and your loved ones. You will be doing your part to protect all Victorians.

Before the test

  • As soon as you have any of the symptoms, however mild, get tested as soon as you can, preferably that same day.

    You must not leave your home for any reason other than getting a test, except in an emergency, including escaping family violence.

  • If possible, you should attend the testing clinic closest to your home and avoid using public transport, taxis or rideshare services.

    After your test, you must return home immediately and stay at home until you receive your test result. This is referred to as 'self-isolating'. You must do this because there is a risk that you could have COVID-19 and infect other people. You must remain in self-isolation at home until you receive a negative test result. If you do not have any symptoms, you do not need to isolate. You can find more information under 'After the test'.

    For more information, read the fact sheet below

    To get further advice, call the 24-hour Coronavirus Hotline 1800 675 398 or call your general practitioner.

  • You need to bring your Medicare card and the details of your usual General Practitioner (GP) and/or GP practice, if you have one.

    If you don't have a Medicare card then bring one form of identification, like your driver's licence or student ID.

  • Yes, the COVID-19 test is free for everyone. There is no fee for the test when you get tested at a public health facility, mobile testing centre or GP offering bulk billing.

  • The COVID-19 test is free for everyone. This includes people without a Medicare card, such as visitors from overseas, migrant workers and asylum seekers.

    If you have symptoms, you can receive a free test at any Victorian public respiratory clinic below. This does not include general practice (GP) clinics.

    Please bring a form of identification and contact details with you to the testing clinic. If you don't have a Medicare card, please bring one form of identification, for example, your driver's licence, passport, transport concession card or student ID.

    The testing clinic does not need to know your visa status.

    For more information, read the factsheet below.

  • If you choose to travel overseas, it is your responsibility to obtain information from your airline about the screening requirements for COVID-19 in your destination country.

    Please also check any current travel restrictions and how to apply for any exemptions at the Smart Traveller websiteExternal Link

    You must obtain the appropriate documentation for entry into that country prior to your departure.

    Please arrange a pre-departure COVID-19 test and proof of the results through your GP, travel doctor or the service provider recommended by your airline.

    Advice to travellers:

    • Check in advance with the airline about the COVID-19 screening requirements for your destination.
    • Check with the consulate of your destination country to understand any COVID-19 related issues and the documentation you need for entry.
    • The Department of Health will not provide you with the documentation for international travel in relation to COVID-19 tests.
  • If you usually provide care or assistance to someone who may otherwise have difficulty getting tested, such as an elderly relative, you may take them to a testing centre.

  • No. The only thing you will be tested for is COVID-19.

  • No. Testers will not ask, and do not need to know, your visa status or the status of those you live with. We are only looking to find out if you might have COVID-19 and how we can help keep you and our community safe.

During the test

  • The test takes around a minute and involves taking a sample swab from the back of your throat and nose.

    Once the test is complete, your sample is sent to a laboratory and tested to see if you have COVID-19. You will be contacted by your doctor or the clinic who did the test with your results.

    If you get tested at a drive-through site, you will be asked to put your car into park and turn off the engine to reduce the amount of fumes for the comfort of you, others queuing and the staff working to help you onsite.

    Please consider leaving any pets at home.

  • At testing sites, test samples will be taken by a trained healthcare worker, usually a doctor or nurse.

After the test

  • After your test you must return home immediately and stay at home until you receive your test result. This is referred to as 'self-isolating'. You must do this because there is a risk that you could have COVID-19 and infect other people. Do not go to work or to the shops.

  • There is no need for others in the house to self-isolate while you are waiting for your PCR test result, unless they are also waiting for their COVID-19 test result or told to quarantine.

    While in self-isolation, you should:

    • Stay in a different room to other people as much as possible. Sleep in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom if available.
    • You must not allow other people into the home if they don't live there, unless they are there to provide medical care, personal care or urgent household assistance.
    • Ensure you stay at least 1.5 metres away from others in the home, if possible.
    • You are permitted to leave your property to seek medical help or in an emergency, including escaping family violence.
    • You are not allowed to leave your home to exercise while you are in isolation or quarantine.

    As always, we encourage anyone with symptoms, however mild, to get tested, so if anyone you live with has symptoms of COVID-19 they should get tested too. Follow the Checklist for COVID cases if you test positive to COVID-19.

  • No, you should not see anyone that doesn't live with you while you are waiting for your test result (self-isolating).

  • There are very specific circumstances where people get tested without symptoms such as close contacts, people who are exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, industry surveillance testing or people due to undergo surgery.

    Close contacts will be asked to get tested for COVID-19 early in and towards the end of their quarantine period, even if they do not have symptoms, and must continue to quarantine while waiting for their result. You can find more information on Your COVID Checklist page.

  • If your test was done as part of industry surveillance testingExternal Link you do not need to isolate after testing, unless:

    • you have symptoms, or
    • the Department of Health has told you to - for instance, if you are a close contact or have been to an exposure site.

    If you test positive for COVID-19 as part of surveillance testing:

    • you must immediately go home and isolate. Do not make any stops on the way home.

    For more information, see the factsheet below.

    Or visit What to do if you have coronavirus.

  • In these cases, you will have received instructions from your general practitioner or surgeon - you need to follow these.

    See also the factsheet below.

Reviewed 28 March 2022

Coronavirus Victoria

24/7 Coronavirus Hotline

If you suspect you may have COVID-19 call the dedicated hotline – open 24 hours, 7 days. The COVIDSafe Information hotline diverts to the national hotline every day from 8pm to 8am.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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