Covid-19 tests: Where can I get tested and which one should I take?

Covid-19 testing stations

Oopsie! You think you may have Covid-19, and your life flashes before your eyes! But wait, you need to do a test first. Let’s be responsible: Covid-19 is fast growing and can affect anyone. So if you, or any of your loved ones or staff, are experiencing any symptom – yes, any symptom, you need to get to the nearest Covid-19 testing station. NOW!

Which one, and where?  Let’s find a Covid-19 testing station to suit your needs and then explore the different tests available

Covid 19 Testing Stations
Drive Thru and Mobile Tests
Free Tests for Public

Covid -19 testing stations


Cost: between R600 and R1000
Type of test: PCR nose swab
Turnaround time: within 24 – 48 hrs (may differ)


Cost: PCR  R800 – R850 ,  Rapid test R350 , Antibodies R380
Turnaround time: PCR: 24hrs – 48 hrs  or more  | Rapid and Antibodies : 15min+

  • Clicks – visit the website for a list of branches
  • Dischem – visit the website for a list of branches

Drive-Thru and Mobile Covid-19 testing stations

For the elderly, corporate groups and those that are simply unable to travel out for a test, there are many companies that can come to you.

Cost:  from R850. Call out fees and surcharges may apply
Type of test: PCR nose swab, rapid tests and antibodies
Turnaround time: 12- 48hrs (15 minutes or more for rapid and antibodies tests)
Travel certificates:  available at an additional fee

FREE Covid-19 Testing stations for the public

A number of the Government hospitals can conduct the test – either for free or for a lesser charge. This is especially useful for those that cannot afford a test. Click here to view the centres offering Covid-19 tests.

covid testing station
Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

Which test should I take?

All these new terms, and abbreviations – wonder if I need to be doctor to understand this!

Basically there are two types of tests to check if you have Covid-19  and another test to check if your body can fight off the virus – probably because you have had Coronavirus without actually knowing it – lucky fish!

Rapid test (Antigen) vs PCR tests

  • Do you have symptoms and need to know if you have Covid?
  • OR have you been in close contact with someone who recently tested positive?
  • Do you need hospital admission for another unrelated procedure?
  • Are you returning to SA, or looking to travel abroad?

If you have said yes to any of these questions, you need to take the test. There are 2 types of tests available:

Antigen test or Rapid test.

This test is also done using a nasal swab. It detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus. As the name suggests, it is a quick test that is more frequently used by hospitals, clinics and GPs, as well as those wishing to travel out of the country. The good :

    • It can be done in a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital.
    • Turnaround time for results is usually very quick – sometimes within 15 minutes.
    • Guides immediate patient care
    • Not always accurate: beware of false negatives!
    • Cheaper than PCR test
    • perform less well if done later 5-7 days after symptoms

Positive result: Treat as Covid positive: no need for a PCR test
Negative result: If the patient is still experiencing symptoms, a PCR test is required, i.e the test has proved to be a false negative. Should the patient be feeling well, the result is then accurate and there is no need for further tests.

PCR test. PCR testing is considered to be the best: it is most reliable and more accurate.  This test actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms.

    • The test can be done in a clinic, hospital, or even in your car.
    • Turnaround time is longer, generally 24hrs – 72 hours, depending on the number of daily tests in your region.
    • More accurate than Rapid tests, although you may get a false negative too.
    • Costs more than the Rapid test

NOTE: A positive test, be it PCR or Rapid, means that you have to isolate and consult with your GP for the necessary care. Once you have tested positive, there is no need to re-test a few weeks later to see if you still have Covid – chances are the test will still show positive. Remain in isolation and follow your dr’s instructions – listen to your body!

Antibodies test

Looking back, you think you may have had Covid-19 at one time or another. Or, in the past year, you have had the virus and wonder if your body still has what it takes to fight it off. In either case, you can take the antibodies test, offered at most Dischem pharmacies and other labs.

  • Antibodies are proteins created by your body’s immune system soon after you have been infected or vaccinated.
  • Antibodies help you fight off infections and can protect you from getting that disease again. How long this protection may last is different for each disease and each person.
  • CAUTION:  An antibody test may not show if you have a current infection because it can take 1–3 weeks after the infection for your body to make antibodies.
  • A positive antibody test does not mean you have an infection now!
  • Re-infection is definitely possible – even if you do have antibodies , you should still be cautious and keep safe!

Do you know of a reputable, efficient Covid-19 testing station? 

Let us know! Drop a comment below.

Related useful articles

  • How to treat mild Covid symptoms at home, by dr Lauren Wise. Read here
  • Should I take the Covid vaccine? 12 questions answered, by dr Sheri Fanaroff. Read here
  • Are more kids getting Covid in the 3rd wave by Karin van der Merwe Read More




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