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

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 97.2KB)

We've also rolled out rapid COVID-19 PCR test kits to more than 37 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

Our 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

 Sero-epidemiology

 SARS-CoV-2 serology

 Serum

 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.

COVID-19 testing of individuals for travel and other non-medical purposes

On 2 November 2020, the Chinese Government issued a requirement for anyone wanting to enter China to provide evidence of their recent negative COVID-19 test results (both NAT on a respiratory tract sample and IgM from a serum sample) 48 hours ahead of travel. The Chinese Consulate subsequently contacted NSW Health informing them of this requirement, which will become effective from 8 November 2020. NSW Health has issued guidance in response to this, directing that individuals requiring testing for travel purposes to any country should be referred to private pathology providers.
Read NSW Health Pathology's position statement of testing for this group of people. (PDF 164.5KB)

Status report of NSWHP's COVID-19 Diagnostics

To provide greater clarity around the current COVID-19 approach to diagnostics by NSWHP, we have developed the attached status report. This outlines the diagnostic modalities and their usage as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

The report covers an update on the following areas as they relate to COVID-19:

  • Self-collection
  • SARS-CoV-2-specific serology
  • Rapid NAT (GeneXpert)
  • Rapid Antibody Tests
  • Rapid Antigen Tests
  • Saliva Sampling
This summary will be revised as our diagnostic strategy and capabilities continue to evolve.

Read a copy of our status report here  (PDF 197.3KB) 

SARS-CoV-2 test schedule

Updated 19 November 2020 

https://www.pathology.health.nsw.gov.au/EditModule.aspx?ModuleID=32022#

Laboratory

Assay

Capacity
samples per day

 Bega

Commercial assays

BD SARS-CoV-2

 <600
 Concord

Commercial assays

AusDiagnostics SARS-CoV-2

 M-F: 1200

W/ends: 600

Dubbo

Commercial assays

BD SARS-CoV-2

 <600

Gosford

Commercial assays

BD SARS-CoV-2

Approx 288

John Hunter,
Newcastle

Commercial assays

 AusDiagnostics SARS-CoV-2

(8-well and Respiratory 16-well)

BD SARS-CoV-2

M-F: 1250
W/ends: 1050

Lismore

Commercial assays

AusDiagnostics SARS-CoV-2

M-F: 600
W/ends: 200

Liverpool

Commercial assays

Seegene AllplexSARS-CoV-2

AusDiagnostics SARS-CoV-2

BD SARS-CoV-2

M-F: 1500
W/ends: 1000

Nepean

Commercial assays

AusDiagnostics SARS-CoV-2 (8-well and Respiratory 16-well)

BioFire FilmArray Respiratory Panel 2.1 plus

M-F: 600

Sat: 400

Sun: 200

Prince of Wales,
Randwick

Commercial assays

Seegene AllplexSARS-CoV-2

Cobas®Roche 6800 SARS-CoV-2

Genetic SignaturesEasyScreenSARS-CoV-2

4000

Royal North Shore

Commercial assays

AusDiagnostics SARS-CoV-2

Genetic SignaturesEasyScreenSARS-CoV-2

M-F: 415
W/ends 166

Royal Prince Alfred,
Camperdown

Commercial assays
Seegene Allplex™ SARS-CoV-2

Aptima® Panther® SARS-CoV-2

1000

Tamworth

Commercial assays

BD SARS-CoV-2

Approx 288

Wagga Wagga

Commercial assays

BD SARS-CoV-2

<600

Westmead ICPMR

In-house Real Time PCR

Commercial assays

CerTest VIASURE

BD SARS-CoV-2

Cobas®Roche 6800 SARS-CoV-2

1500

Wollongong

Commercial assays

BD SARS-CoV-2

Approx 288

*The 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.              

This information is subject to change due to evolving conditions.