Can I get tested for coronavirus? The facts about who can and can't get tested for COVID-19 in Australia.

Doctors are pretty sure Jenny has coronavirus.

But they can’t test her.

That’s despite symptoms like fever, vomiting, headaches, a dry cough and more seriously a stabbing pain every time she breathes.

She called the COVID-19 hotline like we’re being told to do if we have symptoms, and waited on hold for an hour and half.

LISTEN: I Have COVID-19 Symptoms, Why Don’t They Test Me?

“When I got through to someone they said, ‘we’re not even going to screen you for COVID because you’ve got chest and breathing issues so this may be a heart attack. You need to go straight to hospital’,” Jenny told The Quicky, Mamamia’s daily news podcast.

After several tests it was Jenny who ended up having to bring up coronavirus.

“It was quite strange like no one wanted to mention it. But they were all wearing face masks and they were all split up to avoid the spread. I asked for a test and the nurse said, ‘look I would test you but because you’ve told us you haven’t been overseas or had contact with a confirmed case, we can’t give you a test’.”

A doctor even said to Jenny: “It’s very likely you have the coronavirus, but we’re not allowed to test you.”

Compare that to Mamamia podcast host Rachel Corbett.

She has had the test, despite not feeling nearly as sick as Jenny.


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“I got a call from NSW Health saying I had been on a plane with someone who had a confirmed case. From what the lady told me the person was about two rows back. Apparently that classified as close contact. When I told them I had developed flu-like symptoms they told me to come and get a test,” Rachel told The Quicky.

She went straight to the emergency department of her local hospital where she had her blood pressure taken, a heart rate test, and then a swab test.

“I want to encourage everyone to get the test, but I want to say it’s not pleasant at all. It hurt. They shoved it so far up my nose, up both nostrils,” she explained.

Four days later, after holing herself up in her room in quarantine, Rachel’s test came back negative.

So why did Rachel get a test, when Jenny couldn’t even bring the topic up?

She fit the criteria.

Until Wednesday night, there were only two reasons someone qualified for a test.

If they had recently returned from overseas, or if they had direct contact with someone who had tested positive to the virus.

As Dr Brad McKay told The Quicky, it means we actually don’t know how many cases there are out there in the community.

Concern Grows As More Than 450 Coronavirus Cases Are Confirmed In Australia
A COVID-19 Clinic at Sydney's St Vincent's hospital. Image: Mark Metcalfe/Getty.

"We keep hearing on the TV,  'the vast majority of people with it have come into the country from overseas'. [But] they're the only people we've been looking at. We don't know the amount of community spread. It's likely to be a much bigger problem than what we understand," he explained.

Doctors and hospitals were promised a 'huge' influx of testing kits early last week, but Dr McKay says they're yet to turn up and there's been "radio silence" from authorities.

On Wednesday it was announced that testing criteria would be expanded beyond the two core groups.

Healthcare workers, aged care workers, and people in geographically localised areas and “high risk” settings like correctional facilities, boarding schools and military bases can now be tested for the potentially deadly disease.

Tests would be given where there are two or more plausibly linked cases in the above settings.

States and territories have also been given discretion to further expand the criteria. But the problem remains - there aren't enough tests.

"It's frustrating that you hear things on the news that we don't have that many positive tests, but it feels like they don't have any idea," Jenny told The Quicky.

"I have lots of people coming in saying I think I've got it, can you test me. We just don't have enough resources," added Dr McKay. "And according to the criteria we have now, we also can't [test general members of the community]. It's one of the major problems we are having because we don't know what's going on out there."

Feature image: Getty.

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.