Treatments and tests

COVID-19 testing

If you develop COVID-like symptoms, you should get tested as soon as you can with a rapid antigen test (RAT).

Alternatively, you could get a PCR test with a referral from your GP.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:

  • fever (≥37.50C) or chills
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • runny or blocked nose
  • loss of smell or taste.

After your COVID-19 test, stay home until you know the result and until your symptoms resolve.  

COVID-19 case or a close contact?

What to do if you have COVID-19 or are a close contact.

Rapid antigen tests (RATs)

A rapid antigen test (RAT) is a quick home test to check if you have COVID-19.

RAT kits are available for purchase from supermarkets, pharmacies and other selected suppliers, however WA’s Free RAT Program has now concluded.

Two types of RATs (saliva test and nasal swabs) are approved for use in Australia (external site) by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

All RAT kits include guidance on their recommended use. Parents or guardians should check the suitability of the specific RAT for children and perform or supervise the test. 

If you test negative using a RAT, monitor for COVID-like symptoms and test again if symptoms develop or persist.

If your RAT result is positive, follow guidance for confirmed cases, including to stay home for at least 5 days and until symptoms have resolved.

RAT registration

The WA Department of Health no longer requires registration of positive RAT results.

Disposing of RAT tests

Some RAT kits include a plastic bag for you to place the contents of the test, including the swab, into. If no bag is provided with your kit, place the used test items into a small plastic bag that can be sealed. Place this bag into another bag for disposal with your household rubbish.

Wash your hands carefully after completing the test and disposing of test kit contents.

Rapid antigen test kits should not be used beyond the expiration date. Safely dispose of expired RAT kits in general waste bins. Clean cardboard packaging and paper leaflets can be recycled.

PCR tests

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test can be used to detect the COVID-19 virus in upper respiratory secretions.

A qualified practitioner will insert a swab into the back of your throat and then into your nose. This procedure takes less than one minute. It may cause mild discomfort but should not be painful.

Your swab sample will be taken to a laboratory to be tested for COVID-19.

Getting a PCR

You will need a referral/request form from a GP or other medical practitioner to get a PCR test at a pathology collection centre. Usual fees for GP appointments apply.

Where to get a PCR test

Medicare-eligible patients will not be charged for a COVID-19 PCR test – please take your Medicare card to the collection centre when you present for testing.

Some pathology collection centres may require a booking.

COVID-19 PCR tests for international travel

COVID-19 PCR tests for international travel can be arranged through a private pathology clinic (above) or selected PathWest Collection Centres (external site). You do not need a referral from a GP or medical practitioner, but you will have to pay for the cost of the test.

PCR test results

You will receive your PCR test result via SMS within 72 hours, but most people receive their result within 24 to 48 hours. If you do not receive your result after 48 hours:

  • contact your referring doctor or medical practitioner  
  • check your My Health Record (external site)
  • call PathWest on 13 PATH (13 7284) from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm, Monday to Friday (regional testing clinics only).

You may be worried while you are waiting for your result. Read about ways to take care of your mental health and wellbeing at Think Mental Health (external site).

Keep evidence of your positive test result in case you need to show your employer. Do not delete the text message from the WA Department of Health that you receive after testing positive via PCR test as it cannot be re-sent later. 

More information

Last reviewed: 03-05-2023

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.