How a PCR test is done

PCR tests are only available by appointment. They are only offered to certain groups of people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and are at a higher risk from the virus.

Find out when you can get a PCR test

You can choose a test centre location near you when you book a test.

What happens during a PCR test

  1. Use the hand sanitiser provided to clean your hands.
  2. We will take some personal details from you including your phone number. This is so we can contact you with your results. Make sure we have your correct phone number.
  3. A healthcare worker will take a sample from inside the back of your throat and nose using a swab. This may be uncomfortable but it won't be painful. Children under 13 years old will only need to give a nasal swab sample.
  4. We will send your sample to a lab for testing.
  5. Go home - self-isolate (stay at home), if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or had a positive antigen test before your PCR test.

What happens during a drive-through PCR test

Some test centres offer a drive-through service.

To get a test in your car:

  1. When you arrive, follow the signs and stay in your car.
  2. A healthcare worker will ask you to open your window and direct you to a test bay - do not get out of the car.
  3. You will give some personal details - this is so we can contact you with your results. Make sure they have your correct phone number.
  4. A healthcare worker will take a sample from inside the back of your throat and nose - it won't be painful but it may be uncomfortable.
  5. We will send your sample to a lab for testing.
  6. Go home - self-isolate (stay at home), if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or had a positive antigen test before your PCR test.

Children under 13 years of age will only need to give a swab sample from their nose.

If someone else drives you to a drive-through centre

If you cannot drive yourself, a family member or a friend can drive you.

You should both wear a face covering and wash your hands before and after the journey.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or had a positive antigen test:

  • sit in the back of the car
  • avoid touching surfaces
  • keep a window open

Bring tissues and bin them after you use them.

Test result

You need to provide a mobile phone number at the test centre. You get your test result by text message. Airlines will not accept this text as evidence for travel.

Read more about COVID-19 PCR test results

If you cannot go to a test centre

If you have a medical condition that means you cannot go to a test centre, a GP can arrange a home test. Home tests are only available for those who are most in need of them.

Last updated: 2 March 2022 at 9am