HSE COVID-19 antigen tests for close contacts

If you are a close contact of a person that tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus), you can test yourself at home using our free antigen tests if both apply:

  • You are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • You do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19:

The information on this page is about COVID-19 antigen tests for close contacts.

There is different advice about:

How to get your antigen tests

We offer free antigen tests to fully vaccinated close contacts aged 13 or over who do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

What we mean by fully vaccinated against COVID-19

You are fully vaccinated:

  • 7 days after your second Pfizer/BioNTech dose - also known as ‘Comirnaty’
  • 15 days after your second AstraZeneca dose - this vaccine may be called ‘Vaxzevria’ or ‘Covishield’
  • 14 days after your second Moderna dose - also known as ‘Spikevax’
  • 14 days after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine ‘Janssen’ - this is a single dose vaccine

You will get a text message with a link to a website where you can provide your details. When you have done that, you will get a text message with information about your antigen tests.

You should get your antigen tests through regular post from An Post in 1 or 2 business days. If you do not receive them, phone the COVID-19 helpline on 1800 700 700.

Read advice for close contacts who have symptoms of COVID-19 or do not have symptoms but are not fully vaccinated

How many antigen tests you need to do

Antigen testing is more accurate if you do a series of tests on different days.

You should do 3 antigen tests in total. You can do them at any time of the day. There are 2 spare tests in the box if you need them.

When to do your antigen tests

Do your 3 antigen tests in this order:

  1. First test on the day you get your tests.
  2. Second test 2 days after your first test.
  3. Third test 2 days after your second test.

How to do an antigen test

To do the antigen test you use a swab to take a sample from your nose.

The test will show the result in 15 minutes. The results are quicker than a PCR test because the sample does not need to go to a lab. But the antigen test is less accurate than the PCR test.

The HSE is using the Siemens Clinitest Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test.

Antigen test instructional video

Children aged 13 to 16 should be supervised by a parent or guardian when they are doing an antigen test.

When you have finished with an antigen test, put it in a plastic bag and put the bag in your bin.

Read about how to do an antigen test with a younger child

Positive antigen tests result

If any of your antigen tests are positive:

The PCR test will confirm if you have COVID-19.

PCR test results

If your PCR test is negative, you do not need to do another antigen test.

Read what to do if your PCR test is positive

Negative antigen test result

Do all 3 tests, even if 1 of the tests is negative.

If you have a negative antigen test result, report your negative antigen result online. Do this for all negative antigen test results.

Continue to follow the advice on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Invalid antigen test result

An invalid test means the test did not return a positive or negative result. If any of your antigen tests are invalid, use a spare test straightaway.

Limitations of antigen testing

Antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests. In some cases, it may not detect the virus. This is why you should do 3 tests over a period of time.

Where else we use antigen tests

We use HSE COVID-19 antigen testing in some:

  • higher and further education institutes
  • hospitals
  • places where there is an outbreak of COVID-19

We also support COVID-19 antigen testing for primary school children where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a classroom pod.

Last updated: 01 December 2021 at 12.23pm

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