Get tested for COVID-19

If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, call Healthline, your doctor or iwi health provider. They will tell you if you should get a COVID-19 test.

Latest update — 25 November

A new national testing strategy will provide better protection for high-risk groups as New Zealand transitions to the traffic light system.

Delta is here, so we are ensuring we have the tools in place to support the transition to the new system, and to help minimise the spread of COVID-19.

Traffic light system supported by new testing and contact tracing strategy

Where to get a test

If you need a test, you can get one at:

  • your general practice (GP) — call ahead before you turn up
  • a Community Testing Centre.

Search for a testing location near you (external link)

Who should get a test

If you are unwell

If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms you should get a test. If you are unsure, a health professional can let you know, call:

  • Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453
  • your doctor or nurse, or
  • your iwi health provider.

COVID-19 symptoms

If you have been at a location of interest

Check the locations of interest on the Ministry of Health website and follow the instructions on what to do.

Locations of interest in New Zealand — health.govt.nz (external link)

If you have been at any location of interest at the date and times specified you must immediately:

  • isolate at your home or accommodation, and
  • call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on testing and isolating.

By calling Healthline, people who have been at locations of interest are logged into the contact tracing system. This means you can get your test results back faster.

These instructions are outlined in section 70 orders | health.govt.nz (external link)

If you are a secondary contact

You do not need to get a COVID-19 test, unless you are asked to by public health officials or you develop COVID-19 symptoms.

If you are crossing an Alert Level boundary

Most workers who need to cross Alert Level boundaries must get tested.

Testing of workers when crossing Alert Level boundaries

Most people aged 12 and over need to get a test before permitted personal travel from the Alert Level 3 area to the Alert Level 2 area. You do not need a test when travelling out of the Alert Level 2 area.

There is an exception for people who travel into Auckland for a medical appointment (including vaccinations), and then leave to return home. They do not need a test when leaving Auckland.

Getting tested when crossing the boundary

There is no cost to get a test for this purpose.

If you are unvaccinated and work in a school at Alert Level 3

From 15 November, teachers and support staff at schools in Alert Level 3 will need to undergo weekly surveillance testing until they are fully vaccinated. The deadline for being fully vaccinated is 1 January 2022. This testing can be:

  • a nasal or throat swab once a week, through your doctor or community testing centres
  • a saliva test 2 times a week, with at least 2 days between tests.

Getting tested

Healthline or your doctor will tell you what to do if you need to get tested.

If you have symptoms and get tested, stay home until you have a negative test result.

When you go for a test

When you go for a test, wear a face covering, scan in using the QR code on site, and if possible take your NHI number with you. This is likely to speed up the process.

You can find your NHI number on a hospital letter, a prescription or prescription receipt. The Ministry of Health has also set up a new 0800 number that you can call to find out: 0800 855 066.

COVID-19 tests are free

If you are told to get a test by a health official or fall under mandatory testing, your COVID-19 test is free of charge. For example if you work at the border or are a contact of a confirmed case.

Testing for these purposes is free regardless of your citizenship, immigration status, nationality or level of medical insurance coverage.

If you are asked to pay for a COVID-19 test, please report it to your district health board or primary health organisation.

You will not have to pay for your care if you test positive.

When you may need to pay for a test

You may need to pay for a test if it is to enter another country.

Getting a pre-departure COVID-19 test

Surveillance testing by the business sector, which is outside of mandatory requirements, is not part of the public health response to COVID-19 and is not free.

Personal information

You will need to provide contact details so that you can get your test results.

You do not need to have an NHI number or ID to get tested. But it is helpful to have your NHI number with you when you get tested.

How to find your NHI number (external link)

You can have a support person

You can ask someone to help you get to your test and be with you during your test.

If you are very unwell and advised by your doctor or Healthline that you need to be assessed or tested at a hospital, you can ask someone to help you get there. If you need someone with you at the hospital, you or your support person should call ahead and discuss this with the doctor or nurse at the hospital.

If you do not have a visa

Everyone can get tested — you do not need to be a New Zealand citizen or resident. The test is still free, and you will not have to pay for care if you test positive. But, you may need to pay for a test if it is to enter another country.

No information will be shared with Immigration New Zealand even if you test positive.

How testing works

If you need to get a test for COVID-19, a sample is taken from you.

There is more than one way to take a sample. The most common way is to swab the back of your nose. A swab is like a small cotton-bud but with a longer stick.

For some people this is a tickle, others find it a bit uncomfortable.

Help protect healthcare workers when getting tested

If you get a test, we need your help to keep healthcare workers safe. That means continuing to cough and sneeze into your elbow, and staying 2 metres away from other people wherever possible.

Follow any instructions you get, like turning up on time, calling ahead or waiting in your car. 

The people testing you may wear protective equipment likes gowns or face coverings. This is nothing to worry about, it helps protect them and everyone they are testing.

Assessment and testing for COVID-19 | health.govt.nz (external link)

Getting the results

When you get a test, your health professional will tell you how and when to expect your results. Whether you test negative or positive, you will receive your results.

If a result is positive, you will hear back within 48 hours. Negative tests can take a bit longer to return.

Once they are completed, either a community health professional or your doctor will let you know. If you have not received your result after 5 days, please contact your doctor or the testing centre.

If you test positive, the Ministry of Health and your local public health unit will call you to discuss your results. They will tell you what to do next.

What to expect if you test positive

Financial support

If you are waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test, it is important you stay home until you get a negative result. If you cannot work from home, your employer can apply for the COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment for you so you can continue to get paid.

Who is eligible for the COVID-19 Short-term Absence Payment (external link)

Financial support for individuals and whānau

Staying home and self-isolation

Staying at home if you are sick is the best thing you can do to stop any future spread of COVID-19.

If you are feeling unwell, it is critical you stay at home and recover.

If you get a COVID-19 test, your health professional will tell you whether you need to self-isolate. If they tell you to self-isolate, you legally must do so immediately.

Self-isolation means staying at home and taking common sense precautions to avoid close contact with those you live with.

Guidance on self-isolation at home (external link)

Types of tests for COVID-19

In New Zealand there are 3 types of tests for COVID-19:

  • a swab of the back of your nose — this is often called a nasopharyngeal test, or PCR test
  • saliva testing — this testing is available for border workers and workers crossing an Alert Level boundary
  • rapid antigen test — will be used in testing pilots at Middlemore, Auckland City and North Shore Hospitals, and for people taking part in a self-isolation pilot when they arrive in New Zealand.

Government to pilot antigen testing with private sector

Testing after vaccination

Even if you have had your vaccination, you should still get tested for COVID-19 if you develop symptoms or if you are subject to regular testing.

The vaccine is highly effective if people have both doses. Studies have shown that 95% of people who received both doses of the vaccine were protected against getting seriously ill. If you do get COVID-19, you are far less likely to fall seriously ill or spread the virus to others.

Research is still ongoing to determine whether a vaccinated person can still pass the virus to someone else. So we must assume there is still risk of transmission.

Getting tested if you work at the border or in managed isolation and quarantine

The Ministry of Health has information on testing for those who work at our ports or managed isolation and quarantine.

Information on getting tested if you work at the border| health.govt.nz (external link)

Testing if you are leaving New Zealand

Some countries need travellers to confirm a negative COVID-19 test before they leave New Zealand. You can check the requirements of the country you are travelling to, by contacting their local high commission, embassy or consulate in New Zealand.

Getting a pre-departure COVID-19 test

Testing data in New Zealand

The Ministry of Health publishes data on:

  • current COVID-19 cases
  • COVID-19 case demographics
  • source of COVID-19 cases
  • testing for COVID-19.

This data helps us measure New Zealand’s recovery from COVID-19 and how to continue to respond in the best way. It also helps keep track of who is being tested, including at-risk communities or groups with underlying health conditions.

COVID-19 testing data | health.govt.nz (external link)

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