Testing for COVID-19

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Who should get tested

People who have any of the symptoms below, even if mild, should get tested for COVID-19 as soon as symptoms appear:

  • fever (a temperature of 37.5˚C or higher) or chills
  • cough
  • loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat
  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • runny or blocked nose
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • headache
  • muscle or joint pain
  • loss of appetite

Call 000 (Triple Zero) in an emergency, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain.

People who have been at an exposure location or an interstate restricted zone must also seek testing, as directed.

Please be prepared if you need to get tested by bringing water and snacks.

Testing options

There are many options to get tested for COVID-19 in South Australia. Some require a booking and others are walk-in. Some require a referral and some do not.

If you are unsure what to do, call SA COVID Information Line on 1800 253 787.

See below a range of options to get tested:

General Practitioner (GP)

Contact your GP about getting tested for COVID-19. If you qualify for a test your GP may test you in their clinic, they may come outside to take a swab test while you remain in your car, or they may provide you with a referral to attend a drive-through testing clinic.

Drive-through testing

Online bookings for COVID-19 tests are available at selected drive-through testing sites, to reduce your waiting time. Find your nearest testing site using the clinic finder above, or, contact SA Pathology, Clinpath or Australian Clinical Labs directly.

COVID-19 clinics

People with COVID-19 symptoms can visit a dedicated COVID-19 clinic or SA Health drive-through testing clinic to be assessed and tested. You do not need a referral or an appointment.

Respiratory Clinics

Respiratory Clinics are available for anyone with respiratory conditions. Free. All ages. Bookings essential. They do not test people without symptoms (e.g. people arrived from interstate with no symptoms who are required to get tested). Clinics are Commonwealth funded and supported by Adelaide PHN and Country SA PHN.

Home-based testing

SA Pathology offers a dedicated metropolitan service to take COVID-19 tests within a persons’ home. Some regional home-based testing services are also available.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services testing

If you would like to know more about COVID-19, or feel that you have some symptoms, please call your local SA Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (PDF 696KB).

Rapid Antigen Testing

Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) uses immunoassays to detect virus proteins and are less accurate than the highly sensitive and specific Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), which detects gene segments of the virus.

South Australia currently restricts the use of RAT for COVID-19 under the Emergency Management (Prohibition of Certain Point of Care Tests No 2)(COVID-19) Direction 2021 and they may only be used in limited circumstances with approval from the Chief Public Health Officer.

The use of RAT is currently being trialled in specific cohorts. It is anticipated the wider use of RAT will be implemented as the COVID-19 epidemiological situation in South Australia changes.

COVID-19 testing prior to elective surgery

From December 1, patients who present to SA Health sites for elective surgery should receive a COVID-19 test in the proceeding 72 hours prior to attending and 48 hours prior for paediatric elective surgery patients.

There is a significant increase in risk of illness or death for patients undergoing elective surgery who are COVID-positive. Surgery is also associated with aerosol generating procedures which can put our healthcare workers at an increased risk of catching the disease themselves.

Making sure you are COVID-negative prior to elective surgery will ensure you are minimising the risks to yourself and to the staff taking care of you.

What to do after your test

After your test, go straight home and self-isolate while you wait for your test result (which you should usually get within 2 days) and:

  • stay at home and do not attend work, school or childcare
  • wash your hands often with soap and water
  • cough and sneeze into a clean tissue or your elbow
  • avoid close contact with others, including members of your household.

If you have a negative test result

If you receive a negative test result, you should still stay at home and not attend work, school or childcare until you are feeling well again.

People in self-isolation or self-quarantine will need to remain at their place of quarantine for the prescribed period even if they return a negative test result.

If you have a positive test result

It is important that you follow medical advice.

If your result is positive you will be contacted directly by SA Health. 

If you have received a positive result for COVID-19, visit the Information about a positive result for COVID-19 page for information about what to do.

Cost of COVID-19 tests

There is no cost to Medicare eligible patients for COVID-19 testing if you are tested at SA Health or Primary Health Network (PHN) facilities.

Private providers may charge a gap for COVID-19 testing.

Overseas residents who fall ill in Australia (and are not eligible for Medicare) often have health or travel insurance. For those who do not have adequate insurance coverage, SA Health hospitals and COVID-19 testing centres will waive the costs of diagnosis (tests) and treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Translated and Easy Read resources

For testing information in languages other than English, see our Translated Resources page.

For Easy Read resources, see the Australian Government Department of Health COVID-19 Easy Read resources page.