COVID-19 Testing information

Our dedicated colleagues across the state are a vital part of the NSW and international response to COVID-19 disease.  The COVID-19 clinics are listed here and private testing collection centres are here

All 60 of our labs are able to receive COVID-19 test samples collected from patients at public hospital emergency departments and COVID-19 fever clinics.  

Once received, these urgent samples are couriered via road or air to one of the following laboratories. 

The 12 NSWHP dedicated testing laboratories are ICPMR Westmead, Prince of Wales Randwick, Bega, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Concord, Lismore, Liverpool, Nepean, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Camperdown, Royal North Shore and John Hunter in Newcastle.

Accredited testing is also being performed by the Elizabeth Macarthur Agriculture Institute (EMAI) for NSW Health Pathology.

Self-collected swabs are likely to be somewhat less sensitive than the recommended healthcare worker collected upper respiratory tract swabs.  You can read NSW Health Pathology’s clinical recommendations here. (PDF 86.4KB)

We've also rolled out rapid COVID-19 PCR test kits to more than 38 of our labs.  These work with existing GeneXpert technology, used in recent years for rapid testing for influenza and other respiratory viruses. This means diagnostic testing can be performed by on-site NSW Health Pathology lab staff for patients requiring urgent results and care.  This rapid testing is important where urgent clinical care is required to address logistical challenges and timeframes for transporting samples from regional and rural facilities. However, there continues to be a high global demand for these new COVID-19 cartridges and as such, NSW Health Pathology is working with clinicians to distribute testing kits, with priority given to the most urgent cases. You can learn more about the rapid testing and find the recommended patient criteria along with a factsheet for clinicians here

Out total capacity is approximately 15,000 tests/day which - as throughout the entire pandemic to date - exceeds demand.

We review our testing strategy and capabilities daily to continue to meet evolving statewide needs and to make most efficient use of specialist diagnostic test kits and consumables, which remain in high global demand.

The test itself takes six to eight hours and to help get the specimen to the right lab quickly (which can be more challenging in regional and rural areas).

Visit here for important advice on prioritisation of testing.  

The table below indicates the appropriate test and specimen to use according the clinical situation. More advice on each test is here

 Clinical Situation  Test  Specimen

 Acute COVID-19 infection

 Nucleic acid testing

 Respiratory tract sample

 Past infection 

 SARS-CoV-2 serology

 Acute and convalescent sera

 Public health investigations

 Whole Genome Sequencing

 Respiratory tract sample or virus isolates


 SARS-CoV-2 serology


 Specialised investigations 

 Virus isolation 

 Respiratory tract sample

Testing flowcharts

To assist, testing flowcharts have been developed for collecting and testing for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19):

Serology (antibody) testing

Serological testing detects pathogen-specific antibodies in a person's blood after infection. The presence of these proteins indicates an immune response to the virus. Antibodies can be used to give an approximate timing of when the patient had COVID-19 disease.

NSW Health Pathology has issued a clinical update on serology testing in NSW for COVID-19.

Saliva sampling for COVID-19 testing

There’s been discussion across the world about saliva sampling for COVID-19 nucleic acid testing and whether it’s a valuable tool in the current pandemic. The Public Health Laboratory Network (PHLN) has considered its use and noted its advantages and disadvantages. 

Against this backdrop, our clinical experts have reviewed the available evidence and do not currently recommend saliva sampling for COVID-19 testing. The NSW Health Pathology position statement on this has been provided to the NSW Ministry of Health and is published on the NSW Health website. You can download a PDF version below.

SARS-CoV-2 test schedule

Updated 2 April 2020 

Specimen cut off time* in the lab 
Result time*
samples per day
 ICPMR Westmead
 In-house Real Time PCR
 M-F: 1pm
 W/ends: 11am 
 M-F: 2pm and 5pm 
 W/ends: 3pm 
 Prince of Wales,
 Seegene and 
 Cobas 6800 
 Commercial assays 
 M-F: 4pm
 W/ends: 11am 
 M-F: 3pm and 8pm
 W/ends: 3pm 
 In-house Real Time PCR
 M-F: 2pm
 W/ends: 8am 
 M-F: 2pm and 7pm
 W/ends: 3pm 
 M-F: 300  
 W/ends: 150
 Royal Prince Alfred,
 In-house Real Time PCR and 
 Seegene Commercial Assay 
 8pm (last batch) 
 John Hunter,
 Aus Diagnostics Commercial Assay 
 7pm (last batch) 
 M-F: 330
 W/ends 260
 Royal North Shore
 Aus Diagnostics Commercial Assay 
 M-F: 4pm
 W/ends: 12pm 
 M-F: 8pm
 W/ends: 4pm 
 M-F: 300
 W/ends 150
 Aus Diagnostics Commercial Assay 
 10pm (last batch)
 M-F: 200
 W/ends 100
 Aus Diagnostics Commercial Assay 
 M-F: 5.30pm
 W/ends: 4pm 
 W/ends 100
 Aus Diagnostics Commercial Assay 
 1pm and 5pm 
 Weekdays 200  
 Within 12 hours of receipt
 Wagga Wagga
 N/A (24/7 service)
 Within 12 hours of receipt  <600
 BD SARS-CoVID-2  N/A (24/7 service)  Within 12 hours of receipt  <600
 Wollongong  Xpert SARS-CoVID-2  24/7 as urgent test  1hr  Approx 15
 Tamworth  BD SARS-CoVID-2

 AM run: 10am

PM run: 2pm

Evening: 6pm

 Within 24 hrs of receipt  Approx 288

*The cut off and result times are indicative only and can be moved depending upon the urgency, volume of requests and sample work-flow.

Some of the laboratories have been testing over their stated capacity.

All the laboratories send the testing information to ‘Public Health Pathology’ on daily basis including weekends for daily test summary preparation.                 

This information is subject to change due to evolving conditions.