Situation update

As the situation further transmission and outbreaks in NSW may occur and the situations in other states and territories may change, it is important to maintain high rates of testing to ensure any new cases or outbreaks are identified and managed rapidly.

Except in special circumstances, people who have recovered from COVID-19 should not be tested prior to release from isolation. See also Release from isolation.

There is no requirement for testing before returning to work. Requests for such swabs should be declined.

Health professionals in Sydney’s Northern Beaches

Under section 7 of the Northern Beaches Order health care staff should be allowed to leave the area (and return) if they qualify as having a reasonable excuse  under Schedule 1.

Staff should wear a mask at all times and should not leave home if they have any symptoms or have attended any of the self-isolate and get tested locations.

When to wear a face mask

NSW Health staff must follow the advice of local infection control staff and the Clinical Excellence Commission guidance in the Response and Escalation Framework.

When there is active community transmission, general practitioners and other primary health care professionals should wear a mask for all clinical encounters.

The NSW Government has distributed masks to health workers to meet current demand and is monitoring the supply of masks across the state.

Increasing testing for COVID-19 in NSW for those with symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever (37.5 ° or higher)
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • runny nose
  • loss of taste
  • loss of smell.

Other reported symptoms of COVID-19 include fatigue, acute blocked nose (congestion), muscle pain, joint pain, headache, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting and loss of appetite. Unexplained chest pain and conjunctivitis have also been reported as symptoms of COVID-19. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.

NSW Health recommends that anyone with respiratory symptoms, loss of sense of smell or taste, or unexplained fever should be tested for COVID-19. Whilst there are a number of respiratory viruses circulating currently exclusion of COVID_19 remains important for the ongoing control of COVID-19 in the community.

This is especially important for:

  • anyone who lives or works in a high risk setting, including healthcare facilities, aged care and other residential facilities, schools, prisons, and other closed settings
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people who are close or casual contacts of a confirmed case
  • people who have arrived from overseas in the last 14 days (for example, from New Zealand or people exempted from hotel quarantine)
  • people who work with recent overseas arrivals in the quarantine program (eg hotels, airport, transport)
  • people who has been in an area for which there is active COVID-19 transmission and NSW Health has issued directions and advice. See latest alerts (print-friendly PDF).

When getting tested, make sure any health care, aged care or disability support workers or residents are noted on the laboratory request form so their test can be prioritised.

Routine tests for acute pneumonia/pneumonitis should also be performed where indicated according to local protocols.

Special circumstances

Immunocompromised people who were confirmed or probable cases, must have two PCR negative respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart at least 7 days after symptom onset, in addition to meeting the release from isolation criteria.

Asymptomatic people do not usually require testing, except in special circumstances, e.g. active case finding in outbreak settings listed as locations visited by an infectious case or returned travellers from overseas. For further advice please see the COVID-19 control guideline for public health units or call your local public health unit on 1300 066 055.

Testing for COVID-19

Testing for COVID-19 in primary and tertiary care settings requires the collection of nasal and throat swabs. See details of testing technique.

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) for the health care worker (HCW) using contact and droplet precautions: gown, surgical mask, protective eyewear, gloves; and hand hygiene products.
  • Add airborne precautions during aerosol-generating procedures.
  • Single swab for nasal and oropharyngeal collection (may be dacron or rayon, although flocked preferred) and transport medium (e.g. Universal Transport Medium (UTM), Viral Transport Medium (VTM), Liquid Amies). Dry swabs are not recommended.
  • If a nasal and oropharyngeal swab is not possible, swab one area well.
  • Note the tube contains liquid so splashes, spills and leaks in transit must be prevented.

There is no requirement to call the Public Health Unit before referring a patient for a test but they can provide additional advice or assistance if needed (1300 066 055).

For hospital clinical staff managing patients with severe symptoms (e.g. dyspnoea or severe cough)

Advice to give to patients sent home

  • Advise patients to self-isolate while they wait for their COVID-19 test result – this may take between 24 and 72 hours. Provide the self-isolation fact sheet.
  • If they are required to self-isolate for 14 days they need to complete this period, no matter the test result.
    • are exempted overseas travellers
    • were a close contact of a confirmed case.

Please see also the release from isolation advice.

If swab was collected at a NSW Health COVID-19 clinic or emergency department, encourage the patient to register to receive their results by SMS.

COVID-19 case alerts

See the latest case locations and areas of increased testing at Latest COVID-19 case locations in NSW.

Contact the Public Health Unit (1300 066 055)

If you are notified of a positive COVID-19 test result, need advice, or have concerns about the ability of a patient to self-isolate, e.g. if they live in a residential facility, contact the Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.

Current as at: Tuesday 22 December 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW