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: 14 October 2021

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Getting assessed

Who should get assessed for COVID-19?

You should be assessed for COVID-19 if:

  • you have COVID-19 symptoms
  • you have been at a location of interest at the relevant time, or
  • you have been identified as a contact by the contact tracing team.

For details of the symptoms see About COVID-19.

See COVID-19: Contact tracing locations of interest.

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, have been at a location of interest during the relevant times, or are a 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.

Please wear a mask when you go for a test, scan in to the QR codes located on site and if possible, bring your National Health Index (NHI) number with you. This is likely to speed up the process. You can call 0800 855 066 to find your NHI number.

See more information on how to find your NHI number.

If you have been tested for COVID-19:

  • Please go straight home. You will be notified when the result is available, usually between 2–5 days. If you have not received your result after 5 days, please contact your doctor or the testing centre where your swab was taken.
  • If you are a contact of a current case, check Contact tracing for COVID-19 for the actions you must follow.

It is strongly recommended that you:

  • isolate at home if you have symptoms
  • stay at home while you await your result.

Find out more about what to do if you’ve just been tested for COVID-19:

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, been at a location of interest at during the relevant times, and develop any COVID-19 symptoms it is very important that you get tested as soon as practical.

If your result is positive, the Public Health Unit will call you directly. If your result is negative, you will be advised via text to your mobile phone, unless you specify another method of contact.

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.

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.

  • If your result is positive, the Public Health team will call you directly.
  • If your result is negative, you will be advised via text to your mobile phone, unless you specify another method of contact.

If you have not received your test results within 5 days, call your GP or the testing centre where your swab was taken.

If at any stage you feel unwell or develop symptoms, regardless of your result, ring your GP or Healthline on 0800 358 5454, 24/7 and follow their advice.

Find out more about what to do if you’ve just been tested for COVID-19:

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.

Testing if you have a disability

Your GP will know you and your needs, so if you can, get tested at your GP rather than at a community testing station. If your GP can’t provide a test, they will be able to tell you who can.

Information and advice for the deaf community

The NZ Relay Service and the Video Interpreting Service can be used to contact the Healthline COVID-19 telephone service - 0800 348 5453.

You can also check Healthpoint for testing advice.

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.

The Ministry of Health has set up a 0800 number to find out your NHI number – 0800 855 066

You can also 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.

The cost of testing

Testing is free if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been directed to take a test(s) by a health official for example, if you work at the border, ports or in a managed isolation or quarantine facility, are a close contact of a confirmed case, or are crossing an Alert Level boundary. 

Testing is not free if you’re seeking a COVID-19 test to travel to another country. See more on the Advice for travellers page.

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

If you have been tested for COVID-19:

  • please go straight home. You will be notified when the result is available, usually between 2–5 days
  • if you are a contact of a current case, check Contact tracing for COVID-19 for the actions you must follow,

It is strongly recommended that you:

  • isolate at home if you have symptoms
  • stay at home while you await your result.

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.

A Medical Officer of Health can issue a notice under Section 70 of the Health Act 1956 to require people to undergo testing and to isolate until they receive their result. The public must comply with the requirements of any Section 70 notices that are in place.

Current Section 70s are listed at Epidemic notice and Orders.


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, their whānau and our communities.


Testing for workers who travel across Alert Level boundaries

At Alert Level 4, workers who are permitted to cross the Alert Level boundary will be required to have evidence of a test taken within the seven days before crossing the boundary.

The obligation on workers crossing the boundary to carry this evidence takes effect on 11.59pm, 16 September.

The proof of test will be in addition to permission to travel documentation (the Business Travel Document, work order or employer letter) that all workers are currently carrying when they travel in and out of Auckland.

Get more information on the Testing for workers who cross Alert Level boundaries page.


Testing requirements for the education sector

The government is extending vaccination and testing requirements to staff and support people at early childhood centres, primary and secondary schools.

From 1 January 2022, all schools and early learning services providers will need to maintain a register and ensure only vaccinated staff and support people have contact with children and students.

Those who are not fully vaccinated in the period leading up to 1 January 2022 will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

All school employees in Auckland and other Alert Level 3 regions will be required to return a negative COVID-19 test result before they can return to work onsite. If these employees are already back at work, they will be required to have a negative result by 26 October 2021.

Unite Against COVID has more information on vaccination and testing requirements for the education sector.


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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