What happens when you get a PCR test

Find out what to expect when you get a PCR test, and what you need to do after your test.
  • If you are asked to get a test by a health official or fall under mandatory testing, you can get a free PCR test. Everyone can get tested for free — you do not need to be a New Zealand citizen or resident. Find out when you need a PCR test
  • If possible take your NHI number with you to the testing station. Wear a face mask and scan the QR code.
  • You can take a support person with you.
  • After your test, go straight home and stay home until you have a negative test result.
  • Keep monitoring your symptoms and call Healthline, your doctor or 111 if your symptoms get worse.

Prepare your whānau

Make sure you and your whānau have a plan about what you will do if someone gets sick. In most cases, if you get a COVID-19 test, you will need to stay home until you get a negative result. This means you cannot stop at a supermarket or dairy on the way home to pick up essential supplies.

You can prepare by making sure you have enough food, medicines and hygiene supplies at home so you can isolate safely.

Before the test

You can get a PCR test at your doctor's practice or a community-based testing centre. Before you go, check the opening hours and whether you need to make a booking.

Some testing locations also offer drive-through options. This means you can stay in your car for the test.

Where to get a PCR test

When you go for a test:

  • wear a face mask
  • scan in using the QR code 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. You can also call the Ministry of Health on 0800 855 066 to find out.

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.

During the test

If you need to get a PCR 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. You can try wriggling your toes as a distraction technique.

After the test

After your test, follow the advice of your healthcare professional. 

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should go straight home and stay home until you get a negative test result. Your healthcare provider will let you know if the people you live with also need to isolate.

If you need groceries or other essential items, ask whānau, friends or neighbours to drop them off at the front door.

Advice on staying home after a COVID-19 test | health.govt.nz (external link)

Getting your test results

Your health professional will tell you how and when to expect your results. 

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

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

My Covid Record

You can now see recent COVID-19 test results on My Covid Record. When you log into your account, you can view all the test results you have had in the last 90 days, including the type of test and the date of the result.

Please note: If a test comes back positive, there will be a delay of 72 hours before it shows up in your My Covid Record account. This allows time for a health professional to contact you about your test result and provide advice.

My Covid Record (external link)

Financial support while you wait for your results

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)

If you need medical advice about your symptoms

If you feel unwell, or are worried about your symptoms, you can:

  • call your doctor or health provider
  • call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 

Call 111 if you feel very unwell or if your symptoms get worse. 

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