Assessment and testing for COVID-19

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

Page last updated: 30 October 2020

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, wherever you are, please contact Healthline (0800 358 5453) or your doctor immediately and have a test.

If you are offered a test for COVID-19, please take it. 

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

A COVID-19 test is free of charge. However, you may need to pay for a test if it’s for the purpose of entering another country — see advice for travellers.

On this page:


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. 
 
In the first instance, we recommend your check whether you can find your NHI on:

  • a prescription or prescription receipt
  • a prescription medicine bottle label
  • a hospital letter
  • an x-ray or test result
  • by checking your ManageMyHealth profile (desktop website)

If you still can't find your NHI, give your general practitioner or pharmacist a call.


Where to get a test

In Auckland

If you are in Auckland and you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as cold or flu symptoms, you can get a test at:

  • your family doctor – call ahead to find out if you need a test and follow their advice. 
  • a designated GP clinic – you don’t need to be enrolled.  
  • an Urgent Care clinic – some are open 24 hours, 7 days a week
  • a Community Testing Centre. 

Go to Auckland DHB’s website for a list of all testing facilities - this list will continue to be updated.

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. 

Rest of New Zealand

If you live outside of Auckland and you have symptoms, contact Healthline (0800 358 5453) or your doctor to find out if you need a test.

You can get a test at:

  • most general practices (GPs)
  • community-based assessment centres.

Visit your local district health board website to find out about testing in your area or search for regional COVID-19 testing providers and services on the Healthpoint website.

North Island

South Island


Who needs to self-isolate

Our advice to everyone continues to be to stay at home if you are sick. 

You should follow your health practitioner’s advice about what to do while waiting for your test results. 

They will advise you to self- isolate if you have symptoms and:

  1. are in an area with an Alert Level over 2 and/or 
  2. you meet the following Higher index of Suspicion (HIS) criteria:
    • been in contact with a confirmed or probable case
    • travelled internationally in the past 14 days
    • had direct contact with a person who has travelled overseas - this could include Customs, Immigration, and Managed Isolation and Quarantine staff
    • worked on an international aircraft or shipping vessel
    • cleaned at an international airport or maritime port in areas visited by international arrivals
    • exited an MIQ facility within the last 14 days (excluding recovered cases)
    • any other criteria requested by the Medical Officer of Health. 

You will also be advised to self-isolate if you meet the HIS criteria and have one or more of the following less typical symptoms: fever, diarrhoea, myalgia, nausea/vomiting, or confusion/irritability, and there is not another likely diagnosis.

At Alert Levels 1 and 2, you do not need to self-isolate while awaiting test results unless you meet the above criteria. You should always stay home if you are sick though.

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. Casual contacts of cases are not currently required to self-isolate. 

Read more about self-isolation for close contacts.


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.

We are currently testing those who work at the border, including those who work at ports and at Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities. This is part of our rapid response to the current outbreak, to help us detect any cases and to protect workers, their families, whānau and communities.

Read more about our surveillance plan and testing strategy.

Border workforce groups

Border workforce groups include the following.

  • People who work in managed isolation or quarantine facilities.
  • Border workers in customs, biosecurity, immigration and aviation security at airports, people who clean in areas used by arriving travellers, or who clean the aircraft, and people working in airside services such as food-halls where people in transit may be waiting.
  • Border workers at our maritime ports such as ships’ pilots, stevedores, and those providing seafarer welfare support as well as people working in customs, immigration and public health at our maritime ports.
  • Staff who work in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, including those who drive people entering the country from the airport to the facilities.
  • Staff who test people who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  • Air crew.

We are working with employers, unions and DHBs to provide border workforce groups with information about how to access testing. 

Testing higher-risk workers

New rules for testing certain higher-risk workers at the border and in managed isolation and quarantine facilities are now in force, shifting surveillance testing at the border to a more routine pattern. 

Managed Quarantine Facilities and transport

Workers at Managed Quarantine Facilities and workers who transport people required to be in quarantine to and from the facility will be tested once every seven days

Managed Isolation Facilities and transport

Workers at Managed Isolation Facilities and workers who transport people required to be in isolation to and from the facility will be tested once every 14 days

Ports of Auckland, Port of Tauranga and Auckland International Airport

Workers in certain higher-risk occupations at the Ports of Auckland, the Port of Tauranga and Auckland International Airport will be tested once every 14 days


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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