Situation update

  • As the number of COVID-19 cases in NSW decreases, it is important to increase testing to ensure any new cases or outbreaks are identified and managed rapidly. There is now laboratory capacity to approximately double the volume of testing for COVID-19 in NSW.
  • Criteria have recently been expanded to recommend anyone with respiratory symptoms or unexplained fever should be tested for COVID-19.
  • With the exception of workers in high-risk clinical settings, there is no requirement for testing asymptomatic people before returning to work. Requests for such testing should be discouraged.
  • Note that the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends influenza vaccination from April onwards. See the ATAGI Statement on seasonal influenza vaccines in 2020.

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

NSW Health recommends that anyone with respiratory symptoms or unexplained fever should be tested for COVID-19.

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 contacts of a confirmed case or who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • anyone admitted to hospital
  • people who reside in areas for increased testing and surveillance (Note: these areas are updated weekly).

Please make sure any health care or aged care workers or residents are noted on the laboratory request form so their test can be prioritised.

Asymptomatic people do not require testing, except in special circumstances such as recovered cases wishing to return to work in a health care facility, aged care facility or other high-risk clinical setting, or the person is part of a public health unit outbreak investigation. 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): gown, surgical mask, protective eyewear, gloves; and hand hygiene products.
  • If the patient has severe symptoms suggestive of pneumonia, contact and airborne precautions should be observed. The HCW should wear a P2/N95 respirator which should be fit checked.
  • Single swab for nasopharyngeal 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.
  • Note the tube contains liquid so splashes, spills and leaks in transit must be prevented.

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

  • See information sheet, Infection Prevention and Control Novel Coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) – Hospital setting.
  • Add airborne precautions when collecting respiratory specimens from patients with severe symptoms and during aerosol-generating procedures.
  • In addition to the samples above, collect an endotracheal tube aspirate where available.
  • Advise public health and infection control of suspected patients who require hospitalisation on clinical grounds.

Advice to give to patients sent home

  • Advise patients to self-isolate while they wait for their COVID-19 test result – this may take 72 hours.
  • Provide the self-isolation fact sheet.
  • Patients already in home quarantine must continue to self-isolate for 14 days since last travel or exposure even if the test is negative. This includes patients who:
    • have returned from overseas
    • were a close contact of a confirmed case.
  • Other patients can stop self-isolation if they are COVID-19 negative, but they should stay home until well.

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.

Page Updated: Friday 24 April 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW