You can get a free COVID-19 (coronavirus) test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and your GP thinks you need to be tested.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolate (stay in your room) and phone your GP. They may tell you to go to a COVID-19 test centre.
If you are a close contact, go for your test at the time, date and location in the text message. Do not go to a walk-in test centre without an appointment.
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 you need a COVID-19 test
If your GP decides you need a test, they will arrange a test for you.
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.
If you are not a close contact, you can return to your normal activities if you:
- do not have a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more (as long as your 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.
Serial COVID-19 testing is a measure to test certain groups of people who do not have an 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 COVID-19 test result. In these cases, you should self-isolate and your close contacts should restrict their movements.
Tests for people who have travelled to Ireland and want to exit self-quarantine
If you travel to Ireland from a non-designated state you must self-quarantine for 14 days after you arrive. You can end the self-quarantine 14 days after you arrive or by having a PCR test with a negative result (COVID-19 not detected) at least 5 days after you arrive. If you have a test, continue to self-quarantine until you receive a negative test result (COVID-19 not detected).
Last updated: 4 June 2021 at 4.30pm