COVID-19: Updated advice on testing

Situation update

As the number of COVID-19 cases in NSW decreases, it is important to increase testing to ensure any new cases or outbreaks are identified and managed rapidly. There is now laboratory capacity to approximately double the volume of testing for COVID-19 in NSW.

Except in special circumstances (see below), people who have recovered from COVID-19 should not be tested prior to release from isolation.

With the exception of the high-risk settings detailed below, there is no requirement for testing before returning to work. Requests for such swabs should be declined.

Increasing testing for COVID-19 in NSW for those with symptoms

NSW Health recommends that anyone with respiratory symptoms or unexplained fever should be tested for COVID-19.

This is especially important for:

  • anyone who lives or works in a high risk setting, including healthcare facilities, aged care and other residential facilities, schools, prisons, and other closed settings
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people who are close contacts of a confirmed case or who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • anyone admitted to hospital
  • people who reside in areas for increased testing and surveillance (Note: these areas are updated weekly).

Please make sure any health care or aged care workers or residents are noted on the laboratory request form so their test can be prioritised.

Asymptomatic people do not require testing, except in special circumstances, e.g. they are recovered cases wishing to return to work in a health care, aged care facility, or other high-risk clinical setting, or the person is part of a public health unit outbreak investigation. For further advice, please see the COVID-19 control guideline for public health units or call the public health unit on 1300 066 055.

Testing for COVID-19

Testing for COVID-19 in primary and tertiary care settings requires the collection of nasal and throat swabs. See details of testing technique.

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) for the health care worker (HCW): gown, surgical mask, protective eyewear, gloves; and hand hygiene products.
  • If the patient has severe symptoms suggestive of pneumonia, contact and airborne precautions should be observed. The HCW should wear a P2/N95 respirator which should be fit checked.
  • Single swab for nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal collection (may be dacron or rayon, although flocked preferred) and transport medium (e.g. Universal Transport Medium (UTM), Viral Transport Medium (VTM), Liquid Amies). Dry swabs are not recommended.
  • Note the tube contains liquid so splashes, spills and leaks in transit must be prevented.

Testing prioritisation

For the latest advice on testing prioritisation visit COVID-19 testing prioritisation

Clinics and testing centres

Information about COVID-19 testing laboratories and dedicated collection centres across NSW can be found at:

  • NSW Health Pathology public testing laboratories
  • Private testing collection centres
  • Public COVID-19 clinics