Before you get tested

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Last Updated: 21 Jan 2022 7:07am

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When to get tested

Widespread testing of people with cold or flu-like symptoms (even mild) is vital to track and slow the spread of COVID-19.

You also need to get tested if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive to COVID-19, or you are directed to by Public Health.

It is important to get tested if you have any of the following symptoms, no matter how mild:

  • fever (or signs of fever, including chills or night sweats)
  • runny nose
  • cough
  • sore/itchy throat
  • shortness of breath
  • loss of taste or smell

COVID-19 can also present with the following symptoms that can occur on their own or combined with the other symptoms: headaches, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and fatigue. If you are experiencing these symptoms you should consider a COVID-19 test as part of managing your illness.

Call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 or your GP for more information.

Hay fever symptoms can be similar to COVID-19 symptoms or cold or flu symptoms.

They include:

  • runny, itchy, or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • itchy, sore, and watery eyes
  • a cough.

If you have any hay fever symptoms, no matter how mild, it’s important you get tested for COVID-19.

Testing is also encouraged for:

  • People at higher risk of exposure with atypical symptoms, such as health care workers and residential aged care facility workers
  • Symptomatic household members of healthcare and aged care workers

In line with national guidelines, patients being discharged from hospitals to residential aged care facilities no longer need to be tested if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

While you wait for your test result, please stay at home, don’t go to work or school. Learn more at after you get tested.

If you become very unwell or have difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Let the operator know you have had a COVID-19 test and are awaiting your test result.

Types of tests

Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) for COVID-19 involves a nasal or throat swab (using a small cotton bud) that is placed into a chemical solution. You can do the test at home or at the workplace and a medical professional is not required.

There are different rapid antigen tests available, so it is very important that you closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you cannot access or use a RAT organise a PCR test at a testing clinic or GP clinic.

RAT kits are available at no cost for anyone who:

  • has cold and flu-like symptoms
  • has been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 confirmed case
  • has been directed by Public Health to use a RAT

The Australian Government are also providing RAT kits to people who have a concession card, including a health care card, via pharmacies when stock is available. See Health Care Card for more information.

See Types of COVID-19 tests for more details on how to register for a RAT kit.

COVID-19 PCR test at testing clinics involves a healthcare worker taking samples with a swab from your nose and throat. The swabs are sent to a laboratory for testing. To protect themselves when they are in close contact with you, healthcare workers wear protective equipment, including a face mask and safety goggles.

See Types of COVID-19 tests for more details.

Taking a test

There are several ways to get a COVID-19 test in Tasmania:

  • Eligible people  can register for a RAT via the online registration form - positive results must be registered via the online declaration form.
  • Drive through COVID-19 PCR Testing Clinics in Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie – this option is free.
  • GP-led respiratory clinics in a general practice setting in Hobart, Launceston and St Helens – this option is free.
  • Mobile PCR testing clinics that move around Tasmania – this option is free.
  • Your local GP clinic if it offers COVID-19 testing – GPs may charge a consultation fee.

For details on how to arrange a COVID-19 test  see Where to get tested .

Note that when you phone the Public Health Hotline or use the online registration form for a COVID-19 PCR test you will receive a call back to book your test.

To make sure you can get tested as quickly as possible:

  • Have your phone with you and be ready to be contacted
  • Make sure your phone settings don’t block unknown numbers
  • Be ready to provide a few details over the phone

If you use a RAT, and the result is positive, please isolate immediately and register your result on the online declaration form. For more information about when to use a Rapid Antigen Test go to types of COVID-19 tests.

People with disability, who may not be able to be tested in a drive through clinic, should contact their GP or the Public Health Hotline for referral to the most appropriate clinic or to arrange an alternative testing process.

Drive through COVID-19 PCR Testing Clinics

Drive through COVID-19 PCR Testing Clinics are located across Tasmania for people who are not able to use a RAT or have been directed to get a PCR test by Public Health

Drive through COVID-19 Testing Clinics provide sample collection (testing) services only. Staff at the clinics do not provide health assessments or management of symptoms.

Results are usually provided within 48 hours.

These clinics are free, including for people who are not covered by Medicare.

Some clinics require bookings, and you can use the online registration form to arrange a test in public testing clinics in Hobart and Launceston. You can expect a call during the normal operating hours of the Public Health Hotline. See full details of testing clinics.

GP-led respiratory clinics funded by the Australian Government

These clinics are for people who have mild-to-moderate cold and flu symptoms. They provide assessment, testing, and initial treatment of symptoms.

They are the best option for people who need to see a GP but can't see their own, people with underlying health conditions, and for children - particularly those under the age of five.

Staff will be in full PPE. You should wear a mask and you will be asked to wait in your car until your appointment.

These clinics are free, including for people who are not covered by Medicare.

Bookings are required, for details go to where to get tested. You don’t need a doctor’s referral to go to these free clinics, but you do need to make an appointment. Don’t just turn up.

Results are usually provided within 48 hours.

Visit the Primary Health Tasmania website for more information

Mobile testing clinics

COVID-19 testing may be made available through mobile PCR testing clinics when there is need for increased testing in an area. These clinics are free, including for people who are not covered by Medicare.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, don't wait for the mobile testing clinic to come to your area. Phone 1800 671 738 to arrange testing as early as possible.

Your local GP

It is a good idea to discuss testing for COVID-19 with your usual GP.

Some GPs are doing COVID-19 testing themselves, others may see you via telehealth and refer you for testing if required, or suggest you make an appointment.

Results are usually provided within 48 hours.

Cancelling a test

If you booked via the online form or by calling the Public Health Hotline call the Hotline on 1800 671 738.

It is important to still get tested even if your symptoms are mild or easing.

If you were not able to rebook at the time you cancelled, or want to find options for clinics that do not require bookings, read about where to get tested.

Travelling to your test

It’s important to protect others. If you are being tested because you have symptoms and there is a higher risk of you having COVID-19, please don’t travel by bus, taxi or ride-sharing service.

People who have symptoms and are at higher risk of having COVID-19 include:

  • people who have had close contact with a confirmed case in the previous 14 days
  • health and aged care workers who have symptoms of COVID-19.

If you don’t have your own transport, tell your GP or the Public Health Hotline when you make your appointment and ask for help getting to the testing clinic.

If you are being tested because you have symptoms, but are not at higher risk of having COVID-19 (e.g. you have not been in contact with someone who has) then it’s best to travel by private car, but it’s okay to travel by public transport (bus, taxis or rideshare etc) if you need to.

When travelling to get tested:

  • wear a face mask to protect others
  • before leaving home, make sure you and anyone travelling with you wash their hands well, with soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitiser if hands are not visibly dirty)
  • maintain physical distancing of at least 1.5m between people
  • sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue and clean your hands after coughing or sneezing
  • go straight to the GP or testing clinic – don't stop on the way there or back.

If another person drives you to get tested, please protect them:

  • Minimise the number of people in the car, it is best if it’s just the driver and you.
  • Avoid physical contact with the driver, keep at least 1.5 metres whenever possible.
  • Sit in the back seat opposite the driver.
  • Your driver does not need to quarantine with you but should be alert for any cold or flu-like symptoms and isolate themselves and arrange testing straight away if symptoms develop.

Testing after vaccination

Mild side effects following vaccination are common and tend to occur 1-2 days after vaccination.

If you experience fever, fatigue or headache within 48 hours of a COVID-19 vaccination, COVID-19 testing may not be required. However, if you have respiratory symptoms at any time, including sore throat, runny nose or cough, a COVID-19 test is recommended.

If you experience fever, fatigue or headache more than 48 hours after vaccination or you experience any respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat or cough, a COVID-19 test is recommended.

Testing and Medicare

You may be asked for your Medicare details at a PCR testing clinic, however if you are not covered by Medicare you will be able to get a free COVID-19 test.

People from overseas, such as travellers and people with temporary visas, who get sick in Australia and are not eligible for Medicare often have health or travel insurance.

For people who do not have adequate insurance, the Tasmanian Government will waive the costs of treatment and testing for COVID-19 provided by Tasmanian Government services. This includes waiving costs for ambulance transfers for people suspected to have COVID-19 who are taken to Tasmanian public hospitals for assessment. These arrangements ensure costs of services do not stop people from overseas with symptoms of COVID-19 seeking early medical advice.

People not covered by Medicare who have cold or flu-like symptoms will be seen and tested (if needed) at no cost at a GP-led respiratory clinic.

People not covered by Medicare who see a GP should discuss the cost of services with the provider.

Information for visa holders

COVID-19 test information is only used for public health purposes and has no influence on your visa status. The Tasmanian Government’s primary concerns are for your health and to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.