Under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 4) 2020, to come within the definition of a designated quarantine facility worker, the person must:

  • be specified in the NSW Testing Program as a person to whom testing obligations apply; and
  • work or provide services in relation to a quarantine hotel; and
  • be either a police officer, 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.

The Ministry of Health has specified the following persons in the NSW Testing Program as persons to whom testing obligations under the Order apply.

Designated quarantine facility workers requiring testing

Class of worker Type of test Frequency of testingTime of testingDate effective
​NSW Police officers
​Saliva Swab
​Once per shift
​During Shift
​20 January 2021
​Healthcare staff providing medical treatment or care to a person
​Saliva Swab
​Once per shift
​During Shift
​18 January 2021
Persons providing security services to a quarantine facility (but not including a Police Officer)
COVID-19 PCR Saliva collectionOnce per shift During shift14 December 2020
​Hotel staff in a quarantine facility providing domestic services (including cleaners, maintenance, contractual workers), kitchen staff, guest services, front of house staff.​COVID-19 PCR Saliva collection
​Once per shift ​During shift​11 January 2021

Frequently asked questions

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

In line with the requirements in the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 4) 2020 NSW Health is implementing routine COVID-19 tests out of care and caution for certain staff who work in our quarantine facilities.  As numbers of cases of COVID-19 rise across the world and more people return to Australia from overseas, we are seeing increased numbers of cases in quarantine facilities. This test serves as an early warning signal to cases – even before people have symptoms.

How does the saliva test work?

This new program will use frequent saliva tests. The saliva collection is painless and quick. Check the personalised label is correct and place it on the tube. Place the test swab on the tongue for 30 seconds and remove being careful not to touch your lips. Place the swab into the provided tube, snap off the stick, screw the lid on tightly and put into the specimen bag.

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

No. This test will only detect the presence of COVID-19.

Does the saliva test detect previous COVID-19 infection?

It may show evidence of previous COVID-19 infection.

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

Unfortunately not. The nose and throat swab is the most accurate diagnostic test for anyone with symptoms. At this time, the saliva test is used as a screening test in asymptomatic people (those without symptoms).

Can other high-risk groups get a saliva test? E.g. healthcare workers?

At this stage, we are focused on people at the frontline of international travellers – those at airports, seaports and quarantine hotels. The government will consider other groups in the future, as needed.

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

Unfortunately not. The nose and throat swab is the most accurate diagnostic test for anyone with symptoms.  At this time, the saliva test is used as a screening test in asymptomatic people (those without symptoms).

How accurate is this test?

This test has shown positive results when used in a number of overseas settings.  It is approximately 83% - 85% sensitive in picking up the virus. What is lost in terms of sensitivity (ability to find virus if it is present) will be compensated by increased frequency of the screening test.

What are the risks with frequent testing? Will my mouth get sore? Are the chemicals safe to have every day?

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

What happens if I test positive?

If your saliva test detects the virus, you will be asked to immediately self-isolate and you will be required to undergo further diagnostic testing. A member of NSW Health will advise you what to do if this happens.

I’m afraid if I test positive, I might lose my job.

Anyone can get COVID-19. The community is a key partner in this battle. By coming forward, you are helping the community fight this pandemic. NSW works very closely with our hotel partners to ensure we have a unified approach, to fight this pandemic together. 

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

All test results and cases will remain confidential and information only used and disclosed in accordance with privacy legislation.

What happens if I don’t take the test?

Surveillance testing is an important safety measure and will be supported by a public health order. If you are a designated quarantine facility worker and you refuse the test under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 4) 2020 you may be unable to enter a quarantine facility. Your employer will need to discuss your employment arrangement with you.

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

Unfortunately not. 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.

How much does the surveillance testing cost me?

The test is free both for you and your employer

How long before I get my results?

Results will only be notified if you have a positive test.  This will be usually be notified within 24 hours.  Assume that your result is negative unless you hear of a positive result.

When does saliva testing commence?

The program will be phased in from Monday 14 December 2020.

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

No. You only need to self-isolate if you develop symptoms or are exposed to a case.

Who else will be tested?

At this stage, only security staff working at a quarantine facility need to be tested. The government will consider other groups, as needed.

Will it hurt?

No. The test is painless, not invasive and takes about 1 minute.

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

The saliva test has shown to be an effective early warning 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, we do recognise that as the numbers of COVID-19 cases rise around the world, rates of infection amongst international travellers returning to Australia will rise. 

If I have a saliva test and develop symptoms later in the day or the next day, what should I do?

You should not return to work, get a nose and throat swab test, and self-isolate until you get your results. 


Current as at: Friday 22 January 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW