Testing for COVID-19


Quick access to testing is critical to identify people who have contracted COVID-19. As soon as they know they have the disease, they can self-isolate to focus on their health and to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

What tests are available?

Understand the different COVID-19 tests

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) molecular tests Antigen tests
This kind of test is usually called a 'PCR' or 'RT-PCR' test. Antigen tests are also called 'rapid diagnostic tests'.
  • When a person has symptoms of COVID-19, their doctor will send them to a pathology lab for a test to see if they have COVID-19.
  • The test sample is taken by swabbing the nose or throat.
  • You only have cover for a PCR test is if your doctor refers you to a pathology lab for the test.
  • A PCR test is considered the best kind of COVID-19 test as they are the most sensitive type of test we have access to with a high chance of picking up infection.
  • Doctors send people who have symptoms of COVID-19, travellers and patients requiring hospital admission for this kind of test.
  • The results are available within 24 hours.
  • This test can quickly detect whether a person has COVID-19.
  • The test sample is taken from the back of the nose.
  • The pathology lab processes the sample using a reagent fluid that breaks up the viral particles and exposes the antigens the test detects. After a short time, a testing strip is put into the sample and gives a result.
  • Rapid antigen tests are more reliable when they are done on patients who have symptoms of COVID-19. Ideally, a rapid antigen test should be done within the first five to seven days of symptoms starting.
  • The results are available within 30 minutes
Read more on PCR testing. Read more on Antigen testing.

There is also a third type of test available - an antibody test - that is useful in identifying people who have already had the infection and may no longer be infectious. This type of test is not used to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection.

Where to get tested for COVID-19

PCR testing

You only have cover for a PCR test if you see your doctor, you have symptoms of COVID-19, and your doctor refers you to a pathology lab for the test. Discovery Health Medical Scheme members are encouraged to see their doctors and discuss possible testing.

Antigen testing

Discovery Health Medical Scheme members can access antigen testing at one of our network providers:

  • PathCare, when referred by the doctor who screened you
  • Dis-Chem pharmacies
  • Selected GP practices (use our Find a doctor page or ask your GP whether or not they do antigen testing)
  • Drive-through testing locations (through Next Biosciences):
    • Cape town: Old Christian Barnard Hospital, 111 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre
    • Sandton: BluBird Shopping Centre, corner of Atholl Oaklands Road and Fort Street, Birnam
    • Midrand: International Business Gateway, corner of New Road and 6th Road
    • Pretoria: Loftus Park Shopping Centre underground parking, 416 Kirkness Street, Arcadia
    • Bedfordview: Village View Shopping Centre, basement level parking, corner of Ivy and Van Buuren roads
    • Durban: Cornubia Mall undercover parking M30, corner of Tecoma and Flanders drives, Mount Edgecombe

If you have any questions or need information, please call Next Biosciences on 011 697 2931. These antigen tests cost R390 each.

Find more COVID-19 testing sites around the country

Lancet Laboratories
Ampath Laboratories

Important information

Does my medical aid cover the costs?

Each member of Discovery Health Medical Scheme members has cover for two COVID-19 laboratory tests (polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid antigen tests) a year as part of the WHO Global Outbreak Benefit as long as you use a network provider. If you use a non-network provider or you have already used the available two tests, you have to pay for the test yourself.

What happens once I receive my results?

If the laboratory test shows that you have COVID-19, the doctor who referred you for the test should call you. If a pharmacy nurse screened you, call your doctor to discuss what to do next.

How to keep safe and stay updated

Visit our hotspot page to stay up to date on the number of COVID-19 infections in your area.

Visit our COVID-19 hub to find out about COVID-19 vaccines and the national vaccine rollout programme.

The Discovery Health Medical Scheme is an independent non-profit entity governed by the Medical Schemes Act, and regulated by the Council for Medical Schemes. It is administered by a separate company, Discovery Health (Pty) Ltd, an authorised financial services provider.

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