COVID-19 testing and case definition

COVID-19 testing and case definition

Test all cases meeting that meet the case definition for COVID-19 and advise any suspected cases to isolate until results can be provided. Only if clinical deterioration occurs, should patients call 000 or attend an emergency department.

For a full suite of COVID-19 clinical resources - including assessment and management, referrals and referral advice - visit Murray HealthPathways. Note you must be registered and logged in to view. Health professionals in our region can request free access here.

Patient assessment advice for clinicians

If you have a patient who meets the testing criteria, you need to:

  • Separate from other patients.
  • Place single-use surgical mask on the patient.
  • Use droplet and contact precautions (gown, gloves, eye protection and single-use face mask) when assessing the patient
  • Conduct a medical assessment, and focus on:
    - History of contact with sick people or confirmed COVID-19 cases
    - Travel history, occupation and/or residence in high risk settings
    - The date of onset of illness and especially whether there are symptoms or signs of pneumonia. If the patient has symptoms and signs suggestive of pneumonia, viral load might be higher. These patients should be tested and treated in hospital. If clinically required, ambulance transport should be used - advise 000 operator of suspected COVID-19.

For more guidance, including specimen collection information see the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) CDNA National Guidelines for Public Health Units.

Victorian testing criteria (as of Monday 27 April 2020)

Note: DHHS released a communique for clinicians on the outbreak management and high priority COVID-19 tests on 19 May 2020.

People without symptoms should not be tested except in special circumstances such as recovered cases wishing to return to work in a healthcare facility or aged care facility or where requested by the department as part of outbreak management or enhanced surveillance.

Patients who meet the following clinical criteria should be tested:

  • Fever OR chills in the absence of an alternative diagnosis that explains the clinical presentation*


  • Acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or anosmia)

Note: In addition, testing is recommended for people with new onset of other clinical symptoms consistent with COVID-19** AND who are close contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19; who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days; or who are healthcare or aged care workers.

*Clinical discretion applies including consideration of the potential for co-infection (e.g. concurrent infection with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza)

**headache, myalgia, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea


Notify the department of confirmed cases as soon as practicable by calling 1300 651 160, 24 hours a day. A confirmed case is a person who tests positive to a validated SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test or has the virus identified by electron microscopy or viral culture.

Note - DHHS advised on 26 March 2020 that all Victorian doctors requesting COVID-19 testing must provide a patient mobile number on the pathology slip. GPs should also indicate on the form if the patient is a health or aged care worker by clearly marking pathology slips with ‘HCW’ in order to expedite their test result.

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NSW testing criteria (as of Friday 24 April 2020)

NSW Health recommends that anyone with respiratory symptoms or unexplained fever should be tested for COVID-19. This is especially important for:

  • anyone who lives or works in a high risk setting, including healthcare facilities, aged care and other residential facilities, schools, prisons, and other closed settings. Making sure any health care or aged care workers or residents are noted on the laboratory request form so their test can be prioritised.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people who are close contacts of a confirmed case or who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • anyone admitted to hospital
  • people who reside in areas for increased testing and surveillance (Note: these areas are updated weekly).

Asymptomatic people do not require testing, except in special circumstances such as recovered cases wishing to return to work in a health care facility, aged care facility or other high-risk clinical setting, or the person is part of a public health unit outbreak investigation.

For further advice please see the COVID-19 control guideline for public health units or call your local public health unit on 1300 066 055.

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