Assessment and testing for COVID-19

Information on who should get assessed for a test, how testing works and where to get tested.

Last updated: 28 May 2021

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Getting assessed

Who should get assessed for COVID-19?

People with any of the COVID-19 symptoms should get assessed.

For details of the symptoms see About COVID-19.

For urgent medical care please call 111. 

Who to contact

Call your doctor if you are feeling unwell or have any one of the COVID-19 symptoms. They will talk with you and arrange for you to be assessed and/or tested. This assessment will be based on your symptoms and circumstances.

You can also call Healthline on 0800 358 5453. This is free and you can call any time, it is open all day every day. Someone will talk with you about your symptoms and arrange for you to be assessed.

Healthline also has access to interpreters if you need one.

Please tell them if you have travelled overseas recently, have been in contact with someone who has recently travelled, or are a close contact of a confirmed case.

Getting tested

Healthline or your doctor will tell you what you need to do if you need to be tested. Some health care centres may ask you to wait in your car or a waiting area.

If you choose to visit a community testing station, remember to be kind to the staff. They're working as quickly and as carefully as they can.

Your personal information

We will collect only as much information as we need to, so that we can let you know about your test result and to help us report on COVID-19 testing. We will only share your test result with your doctor if you ask us to and give us their contact details.

It's also helpful if you have your National Health Index number with you — see information on how to find your NHI number.

During your assessment the doctor or nurse may wear personal protective equipment (examples are mask, gown, face shield, and gloves) and will ask you questions about your:

  • symptoms
  • general health
  • living situation.

If you have travelled overseas recently, have been in contact with someone who has recently travelled, or are a close contact of a confirmed case and develop any COVID-19 symptoms it is very important that you get tested as soon as practical.

You will get your test results from either your general practice (if the result is negative) or the local public health unit (if the result is positive). If you return a positive test, the Ministry of Health and your local public health team will work with you to identify and contact people you have been in close contact with. If necessary, information about a positive test result may also be shared with emergency services in your area to help them in their response, but it will not be used for immigration-related or enforcement purposes.

Due to the high levels of testing, it may take some time for you to get your results. Please be patient – health services and labs are working as quickly as possible.  Remember to stay home if you are unwell, cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or tissues, and wash and dry your hands often or use hand sanitiser.

How testing works 

The most common way of testing for COVID-19 is to swab the back of your nose. A swab is like a small cotton-bud but with a longer stick.

That sample goes to a lab to be analysed. Another way is to swab the back of your throat and nose.

When you are tested you will be told when and how to expect your results. Whether you test positive or negative, you will be notified about your results.

Your medical professional will advise you on whether you need to self-isolate while awaiting the test result. You should always stay home if you are feeling unwell.

If you are tested, you should follow the advice you’re given about what to do next.

Read more about the science behind how testing works

Read information on what to expect if you test positive.

Having a support person while getting tested

You can ask someone to help you get to the doctor and be with you while you are being assessed and tested.

If you are very unwell and advised by Healthline or your doctor that you need to be assessed or tested at the 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.

How to find your National Health Index (NHI) number

When you visit a testing station it's helpful if you have your National Health Index (NHI) number with you. An NHI number is a unique identifier that is assigned to every person that uses health and disability support services in New Zealand. You can still be tested if you don’t know your NHI number.

You can find your NHI number on:

  • a prescription or prescription receipt
  • a prescription medicine bottle label
  • a hospital letter
  • an x-ray or test result
  • by checking your profile on the online patient portal  provided by your general practice.

If you can't find your NHI, your general practice or pharmacist may be able to assist. Don’t worry if you’re not enrolled with a GP. Your NHI will be found or assigned when you next use health and disability support services in New Zealand.

For people currently overseas – if you’re planning to come to New Zealand and do not have an NHI number, you will be assigned one when you arrive. If you are coming from Australia, you will be assigned an NHI number when you use health and disability services in New Zealand.

Where to get a test

If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as cold or flu symptoms, contact Healthline (0800 358 5453) or your doctor to find out if you need a test. If they agree you should be tested for COVID-19, you can get this test from:

  • your family doctor – call ahead and follow their advice 
  • most general practices (GPs) – call ahead and follow their advice, especially if you’re not an enrolled patient  
  • most Urgent Care clinics
  • community-based assessment centres.

Visit the Healthpoint website to find out about testing locations in your area, or find out more on your local district health board website. If you don’t have symptoms, you should only get a test if directed to by a health official – for example, if you work at the border, ports or in a managed isolation or quarantine facility, or are a close contact of a confirmed case. 

If you’re seeking a COVID-19 test to travel to another country, please see Advice for travellers.

Staying home or self-isolating after a COVID-19 test

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and are tested, you need to stay at home until you receive a negative test result and until 24 hours after your symptoms have gone.  Read more about staying home if you have COVID-19 symptoms and/or are waiting for a test result.

In some cases, your local public health official may also ask you to self-isolate while you stay at home. This means you will need to take extra steps to stay away from other members of your household, to further reduce the risk of you transmitting the COVID-19 virus to them if you have it. Read more about how to self-isolate.

Advice on whether household members of close contacts of cases will need to self-isolate will be made on a case by case basis on advice from a medical officer of health.

Testing for border workforce groups

Protecting those who work at the border from COVID-19 is a priority. Infection prevention measures such as good hygiene, physical distancing and appropriate use of PPE are the mainstay of protection. Daily health checks and testing help keep border workforce groups safe.

There is a programme of regular, mandatory COVID-19 testing in place for those who work at the border, including those who work at ports and airports and at Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities. This is part of our strategy to detect any cases and contain them, and to protect workers, their families, whānau and communities.

Testing for travellers leaving New Zealand

Some countries require 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.

If you need a COVID-19 test prior to departure please see Advice for travellers.

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