Questions and answers on community testing

Questions and answers on community testing for Public Health Units and Primary Care

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Can I use a throat swab to test for COVID-19? 

A nasopharyngeal swab placed into a viral transport media (VTM) will obtain the optimal specimen and is the preferred collection method for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing.   

An oropharyngeal swab may be considered for those unable to tolerate a nasopharyngeal swab.  If an oropharyngeal specimen is collected, it is recommended that a deep nasal specimen is also collected at the same time as this will ensure adequate virus is obtained. 

An oropharyngeal on its own should only be taken if deep nasal specimen is not tolerated.  Oropharyngeal specimens (without a deep nasal specimen) should only be taken in the first few days of their illness when the viral load is likely to be highest.  Oropharyngeal specimens should not be taken if there are no symptoms as they are unlikely to collect an adequate amount of virus. 

View information on how to take nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal specimens.


Can I test for COVID-19 and for Group A streptococcal infection on the same swab?

Check with your local laboratory – in some regions, both COVID-19 and group A streptococcal infection can be tested for on the same swab.  Clinicians who work in regions with a high incidence of rheumatic fever who are assessing Māori and Pacific children and young people with a sore throat, may want to consider testing for both COVID-19 and group A streptococcal infection. 


Do I test a patient who has symptoms consist with COVID-19 who is a direct contact of someone who has travelled overseas, even if the traveller has returned a negative test and has not ever had any symptoms in the last 14 days. Does the patient meet the High Index of Suspicion criteria?

Yes, they meet the High Index of Suspicion criteria.


Should I test someone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but I am unsure about whether they fall into the higher index of suspicion category? 

Yes. You should continue to encourage all patients presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to be tested. The assessment and swabbing for these patients are at no charge to the individuals.


When you say ‘seniors’ are an essential group that should be tested, what age is this? 

Anyone over 70 years is considered a senior.  However, you should continue to encourage all patients presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to be tested.


Should children be tested for COVID-19?

Yes.   You should continue to encourage all patients presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to be tested. The assessment and swabbing for these patients are at no charge to the individuals.

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