Types of COVID-19 tests

PCR testing is the most reliable way of diagnosing COVID-19. It is the main type of test that we use.

Private companies can offer different types of tests. We do not recommend or endorse any particular test provider.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate (stay in your room) and get a free HSE COVID-19 test.

PCR testing

A PCR test is the most reliable COVID-19 test because it looks at the genetic material of the virus. It is done in a lab and is a very reliable way of knowing if you are infected with COVID-19.

If you get a PCR test from a private company and you test positive for COVID-19, the lab has to report this to the HSE. This means that the HSE contact tracing team can contact your close contacts.

Antigen testing

Antigen testing is quicker but less reliable than PCR testing. This type of test does not have to be done in a lab.

We use antigen tests in:

  • hospitals
  • places where there is an outbreak of COVID-19
  • education and early years facilities - as part of a pilot project

Antibody tests

Antibody tests check for antibodies to see if you had an infection with the virus in the past. This test needs a blood sample. The HSE does not currently offer these tests.

Last updated: 27 August 2021 at 12.45pm

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