How and where to get tested for Covid-19 in South Africa

Business Insider SA
Covid-19 test South Africa
Covid-19 rapid test (Getty Images)
  • You can get tested for Covid-19 at numerous public and private health facilities, with some results available in just 15 to 30 minutes.
  • South Africa’s biggest pharmacies, Clicks and Dis-Chem, offer tests ranging from R200 to R800 depending on the type.
  • Most health insurers will cover the cost of testing if the policy holder tests positive.
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With South Africa experiencing a surge of Covid-19 infections, signalling the arrival a dreaded second wave, several providers are reporting a rush on testing.

As during the first wave of infection which peaked in July 2020, both government and healthcare practitioners are urging South Africans to get tested if they have reason to suspect they have contracted the coronavirus and, if positive, self-isolate to avoid transmitting the virus. This is especially crucial within the context of the upcoming festive season, when interprovincial travel and social gatherings increase exposure to Covid-19.

Urgent Covid-19 testing is recommended if:

  • You are displaying classic Covid-19 symptoms, including fever, dry cough, tiredness or loss of taste or smell.
  • You have been in close contact with somebody who has tested positive for Covid-19 (if this occurred two days before to ten days after the contact person’s symptoms began)
  • You have attended an intimate gathering or function where one or more people have since tested positive for Covid-19.
  • You have been advised to by a healthcare practitioner (particularly if comorbidity risks are heightened)

Two types of Covid-19 tests are currently in use. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which involves a swab being used to receive specimens from the back of the throat or nasal passage, is the most commonly used. While the results of the PCR test can take anywhere between 15 hours and three days to be delivered – depending on whether conducted at a private or public facility – newly developed rapid antigen tests, can provide answers in a matter of minutes.

Covid-19 testing in South Africa is handled by public hospitals, private doctors, community clinics and even some pharmaceutical retailers. Large private groups, including Netcare and Mediclinic, have their own communications channels if you require coronavirus-related help. If you are unaware of any testing facilities in your area, you can call the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for advice on 0800 029 999.

It's important to note that testing at a public facility, including state hospital or clinic, will be done free of charge. Private testing, unless covered (whether partially or fully) by health insurance, can range from R200 to R850 depending on the type of test performed.

If you are wanting to get tested, it’s advised that you call your nearest healthcare resources – whether public or private – to familiarise yourself with the procedure and arrange a booking if required.

Two of South Africa’s largest pharmaceutical chains, Clicks and Dis-Chem, also offer Covid-19 testing.

Bookings for Covid-19 testing can be arranged through Clicks’ website or by phoning your nearest pharmacy if online booking is not supported. Testing is not guaranteed at all Clicks stores, so enquiring beforehand is important.

Dis-Chem offers both PCR viral swab tests and rapid antibody tests. These tests can be booked through Dis-Chem’s in-house Wellness Clinics and require registering beforehand. To find your nearest clinic, you can call 086 111 7427 or use Dis-Chem’s online store finder.

Alternatively, pathology chains LancetPathCare, Vermaak, and Ampath will all take samples at various centres around South Africa for testing – in some cases as a drive-through service.

For testing at home – at a premium – you can book a visit online via travel company VFS Global.

See also | SA companies may require staff to be vaccinated before returning to work – but it’s complicated

If you test positive for Covid-19, you will be advised to contact your health care provider telephonically. Importantly, you will be required to self-isolate and avoid contact with other persons for a minimum of 10 days. You may also be advised to contact people you may have recently come into close contact with and notify them of the risk of transmission.

If your symptoms worsen, and you have trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure in your chest that does not go away, or begin coughing up blood, you should seek urgent medical attention.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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