You can get a free test for COVID-19 (coronavirus) if:
- you have symptoms of COVID-19 and your GP thinks you need to be tested
- you are told you are a close contact by our contact tracing team
Symptoms of COVID-19
Self-isolate and phone your GP if you suddenly experience one of these symptoms and there is no other obvious cause:
- a fever (high temperature - 38 degrees Celsius or above)
- a new cough - this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
- shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
- loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
Your GP will discuss your symptoms and whether you need a test for COVID-19.
Getting an early diagnosis means you can get the help you need and take steps to avoid spreading the virus, if you have it.
If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, our contact tracing team will phone you. They will arrange a test for you. You will be tested even if you do not have symptoms.
Free GP assessment
Your test and GP assessment will be free of charge. This includes GP out-of-hours services.
Phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone.
If you don't have a GP, any GP can arrange a test for you. The GP out-of-hours services can also arrange testing.
HSELive cannot order COVID-19 tests. It is an information line only.
If your GP decides you need a COVID-19 test
Make sure your GP has the correct mobile number for you. Your test details and test result will be sent to you by text message.
Having a test is important if your GP decides you need one. It can help you find out if you have COVID-19 and avoid spreading the virus to someone else.
It can also help us to understand how far the virus is spreading and to plan for extra demand on health services.
Test appointment details
You will get a text message with the time and location of your test. The text will include a reference number. You will need to bring this to your appointment.
Most people will have their test at a community test centre. Some test centres are drive-thru.
Testing is by appointment only. Do not go to a test centre without an appointment - you will not be seen.
Your GP and HSELive do not have access to your reference number.
Bring your phone
Bring your phone with you to the test centre or drive-thru test centre.
If a Garda stops you on your way to a test centre, show them the text message with your appointment information. Do not open your window. Hold your phone up to the window to show the garda your appointment details.
If you don't get a text with your test details
If you don't get a text within a day of seeing your GP, phone your GP. Check that they have your correct mobile phone number.
Changing a test appointment
You can change the date or location of your test appointment using the text message you received with your test details. You can also cancel your appointment.
To change or cancel your test:
- Open the text message.
- Click on the link 'for more information...'
- You will be brought to a web page with your appointment details.
- Click on the relevant link to change or cancel your appointment.
If your symptoms get worse
Phone your GP if your symptoms get worse while you are waiting for your test.
If you have difficulty breathing or are feeling very unwell, call 112 or 999 and tell them about your symptoms.
If your GP decides that you do not need to be tested
If your GP decides that you do not need to be tested, you will still be asked to stay home until you have had no symptoms for 48 hours.
But if you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, you should follow the advice to restrict your movements.
You can return to your normal activities if you:
- do not have a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more (as long as their temperature has not been lowered by taking any form of paracetamol or ibuprofen)
- do not have a new cough
- do not live with anyone who is unwell and may have COVID-19
- have been told by a GP that your illness is caused by something else, that is not COVID-19
- have got a negative ('not detected') COVID-19 test result and have not had symptoms for 48 hours
- have not had diarrhoea for 48 hours
Limitations of testing for COVID-19
No test is 100% accurate. All tests have limitations. This is the same with the test for COVID-19.
The test will find the virus in most people who have symptoms. But in some cases it may not pick up that you have the virus.
Some test samples may go missing or we may be unable to identify a patient. This can happen in a very small number of cases due to human error. All steps are taken to prevent this and every effort is made to trace samples to patients.
Before you are tested
Treat your symptoms at home. Drink enough water to avoid dehydration - your pee should be light yellow or clear. Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help with symptoms such as pain or fever.
Before taking any medication, read the full package leaflet that comes with your medicine. You should also follow any advice a healthcare professional gives you.
If your symptoms get worse or are severe, phone your GP.
Serial COVID-19 testing is a measure to test certain groups of people who do not have infection. Serial testing is repeated periodically, sometimes weekly, on a voluntary basis.
Serial testing is offered as a precaution to people in certain settings where infection is more likely to occur. For example, certain workplaces (such as meat factories) or facilities (such as residential care facilities, Direct Provision centres).
If you are receiving serial testing, you can go to school or work as normal unless you develop symptoms of COVID-19 or get a positive (detected) COVID-19 test result. In these cases, you will need to self-isolate and your close contacts will need to restrict their movements.
Last updated:16 November 2020 at 4.15pm