In line with the requirements in the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2021NSW Health implemented routine COVID-19 tests out of care and caution for certain staff who work in our quarantine facilities.

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Designated quarantine facility workers requiring testing

Under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2021 (Order) a designated quarantine facility worker is:

  • a police officer, a person entering/accessing a quarantine facility for the purposes of providing medical treatment or care to a person, or a person carrying out functions or providing services necessary for the ordinary operation of the facility; and
  • who in the course of their employment carries out functions or provides services in relation to the quarantine facility, and
  • is specified in the NSW Testing Program (being this document) as a person to whom clause 11 of the Order applies.

Among other things, a designated quarantine facility worker must not carry out, or continue to carry out, functions or provide, or continue to provide, services in relation to a quarantine facility unless the worker is tested for COVID-19 in accordance with the requirements set out in the NSW Testing Program.

For the purposes of clause 11 of the Order, the classes of designated quarantine facility workers are set out below.

Class of WorkerType of Test Frequency of testing Time of testing
NSW Police officersSaliva SwabOnce per shiftDuring Shift
Healthcare staff providing medical treatment or care to a person including health staff conducting infection prevention and control auditsSaliva SwabOnce per shiftDuring Shift
Persons providing security services to a quarantine facility (but not including a Police Officer)Saliva swabOnce per shiftDuring shift
Hotel staff in a quarantine facility providing domestic services (including cleaners, maintenance, contractual workers), kitchen staff, guest services, front of house staff.Saliva swabOnce per shiftDuring shift
Australian Defence Force members providing services in relation to a quarantine facilitySaliva swabOnce per shiftDuring shift
Persons who conduct health screening and courier services in a quarantine facilitySaliva swabOnce per shiftDuring shift
Persons conducting audits of security services for a quarantine facilitySaliva swabOnce per shiftDuring shift

Designated Transportation Providers 

Under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2021 a designated transportation provider is a person:

  • who, in the course of the person's employment, provides a transportation service to a relevant person, and
  • who is specified in the NSW Testing Program (this document) as a person or a member of a class of persons to whom clause 12 of the Order applies.

    * Relevant person has the same meaning as the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2021

    Among other things, a designated transportation provider must not provide, or continue to provide, a transportation service unless the provider is tested for COVID-19 in accordance with the requirements set out in the NSW Testing Program.

    For the purposes of clause 12 of the Order, the classes of designated transportation providers are set out below.
Class of WorkerType of Test Frequency of testing Time of testing
Persons providing transport services to a relevant person to and from the airport to a quarantine facilitySaliva SwabOnce per shift During Shift
Persons providing transport services from an airport to a declared flight crew member's residenceSaliva Swab Once per shiftDuring Shift
Persons providing transport services to a relevant person  from a quarantine facility for a time limited exemption Saliva Swab Once per shiftDuring Shift

Persons providing transport services to a relevant person from an airport, other than a person providing suitable transport to an interstate flight crew member

"Suitable transport" and "interstate flight crew member" have the same meaning in the Order

Saliva Swab Once per shiftDuring Shift

Designated Airport Workers

Under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2021 (Order) a designated airport worker is a person:

  • who, in the course of the person's employment, carries out functions or provides services at an airport, and
  • who is specified in the NSW Testing Program (this document) as a person or a member of a class of persons to whom this clause 13 of the Order applies.

Among other things, a designated airport worker must not carry out, or continue to carry out, functions or provide, or continue to provide, services at an airport unless the worker is tested for COVID-19 in accordance with the requirements set out in the NSW Testing Program.

For the purposes of clause 13 of the Order, the classes of designated airport workers are set out below.

Class of WorkerType of TestFrequency of testingTime of testing
Persons conducting health screening and swabbing to relevant persons at an airport and person supporting persons providing health screening and swabbing. This includes health care workers and administrative support   Saliva SwabOnce per shift During Shift
Health courier services supporting health screening and swabbing staff in relation to relevant personsSaliva SwabOnce per shiftDuring Shift
Australian Defence Force members who provide baggage handling services to relevant persons Saliva SwabOnce per shiftDuring Shift
Persons conducting passport and border control, biosecurity and law enforcement.  Saliva Swab Once per shiftDuring Shift
Persons providing international aeromedical retrieval air transportation services for relevant persons Saliva SwabOnce per shift During Shift
Freight staff, ground handlers, caterers, cleaners, customer service agents, ramp workers, baggage handlers, engineers, and security services  providing in the environment where relevant persons are, or have been which includes boarding an aircraft (excluding international flight crew members who are ordinarily an Australian resident) Saliva SwabOnce per shiftDuring shift
Persons providing cleaning and/or vehicle preparation services for vehicles that are used to transport relevant personsSaliva swabOnce per shiftDuring shift

Frequently asked questions

What is the purpose of routine COVID-19 testing for workers in quarantine facilities?

NSW Health is implementing routine COVID-19 tests as an early detection system to identify any transmission of COVID-19 to quarantine workers.

How does the saliva test work?

Saliva collection is painless and quick. Check that your personalised label is correct and stick it on the tube. Place your test swab on your tongue for 30 seconds and then remove it. Be careful not to touch your lips or teeth. Place the swab into the tube, snap off the stick at the red line, screw the lid on tightly and place the tube into the specimen bag.

Why do you say a "non-negative" instead of "positive" result?

The saliva test is not as accurate as a nose and throat swab. It is only used as an early detection strategy in asymptomatic people (those without symptoms). A non-negative result does not necessarily mean a confirmed positive case. If a non-negative result is detected, it is important to follow up with a nose and throat swab to confirm the result.

Does the saliva test detect anything other than COVID-19 (for example, alcohol, medications, recreational drugs, pregnancy or other medical conditions)?

No. This test only detects the presence of COVID-19.

Does the saliva test detect previous COVID-19 infection?

The test may detect evidence of previous COVID-19 infection.

Can other members of the community get a saliva test instead of a nose and throat swab?

No. The nose and throat swab is the most accurate diagnostic test for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms. At this time, the saliva test is used as a screening test for asymptomatic people (those without symptoms).

Can other high-risk groups get a saliva test? (for example, healthcare workers)?

At this stage, we are focused on people at the frontline who may come into contact with international travellers, such as people working at airports, seaports and quarantine hotels. The government will consider other groups in the future if the need arises.

My young child has COVID-19 symptoms – can they get a saliva test instead of a nose and throat swab?

No. The nose and throat swab is the most accurate diagnostic test for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms.  At this time, the saliva test is used as a screening test for asymptomatic people (those without symptoms).

How accurate is the saliva test?

The saliva test has shown to be effective when used in a number of overseas settings. It is approximately 83% - 85% sensitive in detecting the precense of COVID-19. What is lost in terms of sensitivity (ability to find virus if it is present) will be compensated for by more frequent testing.

What are the risks with frequent testing? Will my mouth get sore? Are there chemicals in the swab?

There are no risks associated with frequent testing. The swab should fit comfortably over the tongue and not make your mouth sore. There are no chemicals on the swab, it will simply absorb your saliva.

What happens if I get a non-negative result from a saliva test?

If your saliva test is non-negative, you will be asked to immediately self-isolate and you will be required to undergo diagnostic nose and throat swab. A member of NSW Health will advise you what to do if this happens.

I’m afraid that if I test positive after a nose and throat swab, I might lose my job.

Anyone can get COVID-19. By coming forward, you are helping to keep the NSW community safe. NSW works very closely with our partners in hotels, at the airport and within maritime, to ensure we have a unified approach to our response to COVID-19.

I don’t want the media to find out if I test positive – my community might be angry that I have got COVID-19.

All test results and cases will remain confidential. NSW Health will not release your results.

What happens if I refuse to take the saliva test?

Saliva testing is an important safety measure and will be supported by a public health order. If you refuse the test, you may be unable to enter your place of employment to start your shift. Your employer will need to discuss your employment arrangement with you.

Do I have to pay for a saliva test?

The test is free for both you and your employer.

How long before I get my saliva test results?

You will only be notified if you have a non-negative test result. You will usually be notified within 24 hours. Assume that your result is negative unless you hear of a non-negative result.

Do I need to self-isolate after having a saliva test?

No. You only need to self-isolate if you develop symptoms, are exposed to a COVID-19 case, receive a non-negative result, or if you are advised to self-isolate by NSW Health.

Will the saliva test hurt?

No. The test is painless, non-invasive and takes about 1 minute to complete.

Why am I being tested if I don’t have COVID-19 symptoms?

The saliva test is an effective early detection tool. The test will allow us to track cases even before people have symptoms.

Am I at high risk of COVID-19?

Many thousands of people have safely returned to Australia via NSW quarantine. While we remain confident in our processes, the high prevalence of COVID-19 overseas mean that we will continue to detect infections in international travellers returning to Australia.

Can I get a saliva test instead of a nose and throat swab if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

No. The nose and throat swab is the most accurate diagnostic test for anyone with symptoms. The saliva test is only used as a screening test in asymptomatic people (those without symptoms).

What if I develop symptoms of COVID-19?

If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 you should self-isolate and get a nose and throat swab immediately. You should not attend work if you have symptoms. If you develop symptoms while at work, please inform your employer.

The COVID-19 surveillance test - How to self-collect your saliva sample

Video: Saliva testing instructions

Poster: COVID-19 surveillance test


Poster: COVID-19 surveillance test

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More information for quarantine workers

For more information, refer to Quarantine workers.

Current as at: Monday 12 July 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW