This advice is intended for people who meet the current criteria for testing for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and are not admitted to a healthcare facility.  

These criteria are regularly updated by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). Refer to the case definition for person under investigation (PUI).  You will be tested only if you meet the PUI criteria, which includes having symptoms of a respiratory illness of recent or sudden onset.

There are a number of reasons why we do not recommend testing of a person with no symptoms, even if you are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, or have recently travelled to a country where COVID-19 is circulating in the community:

  1. A negative test result in a person with no symptoms does not mean that you do not have COVID-19. You could still be in the early stage of COVID-19 and develop symptoms later. Therefore, testing when you do not have symptoms could give a false-negative result.
  2. Even if your laboratory test result was negative, you would still need to stay at home in quarantine for 14 days if you travelled to a region with high transmission or had close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19. Refer to guidance on what to do if I am a close contact of a person with confirmed disease and am asked to home quarantine.
  3. If you tested negative and mistakenly interpreted this to mean that you were not infected, you could go back to your usual activities and spread the virus while you still had an early infection.
  4. There is a shortage of laboratory tests globally, and we need to reserve our valuable laboratory testing resources for those who are sick and for those groups of people where we can use these test results for public health good.

The exact testing process may be different in different provinces and between the public- and private-sectors. In general, you need to first contact your healthcare provider. This may be your GP or your local clinic/ hospital. You should phone ahead to your healthcare provider, if possible, and find out what the exact process is for you to be tested. If you cannot get hold of your healthcare provider, you can try to call your nearest testing laboratory for information. If you have internet access, you can look for specific information on these testing laboratory websites. If you do not need emergency medical care, you should not visit a hospital emergency unit for testing. Some hospitals or GPs may refer you to an off-site testing facility. The NHLS and some private laboratories offer testing at mobile facilities. You will need to pay for tests done at private laboratories.  

The most commonly collected specimen is a swab collected through your nose. If you have a wet cough, you may be asked to produce a sputum specimen into a jar for testing. This specimen will be sent to a pathology laboratory. The laboratory will test your specimen for genetic material from the new coronavirus. This virus has been named SARS-CoV-2. The test will be reported as either positive or negative. If your test is reported as positive, this means that genetic material from the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was found in your specimen and you have confirmed coronavirus disease. Please refer to guidance on what to do if I test positive for coronavirus disease and am asked to home isolate. If your test is reported as negative, this may not necessarily exclude COVID-19 for a number of reasons.  You should therefore complete your period of home quarantine as you have potentially been exposed to the infection, and you should only have a repeat test if this is advised by your healthcare provider. 

The turn-around time for testing specimens varies from laboratory to laboratory. In general, you should expect to receive your results within a few days.

Your test results will be sent to your healthcare provider. If have agreed to be contacted with your test results, your test result may be sent directly to you.

While you wait for your results, you are advised to self-quarantine at home. Refer to guidance on what to do if I am a close contact of a person with confirmed disease and am asked to home quarantine

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