Coronavirus Testing and Serologic Tests

What do you need to take and when, where to get tested, how long does it take for a test result to arrive, and what is a serologic test? All the information about coronavirus testing

What is tested and types of tests

What is tested in a coronavirus test?

Coronavirus tests search for coronavirus (or more exactly, the genetic material of the virus) in the oral and nasal cavity. This way it is possible to detect if this individual is sick with the virus, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic. Patients who test negative are considered confirmed cases (sometimes they are called active patients).

Types of coronavirus tests

There are two types of medically accepted tests for the diagnosis of coronavirus.

  1. PCR test is designed primarily for the diagnosis of active patients. It is used to apply for isolation shortening (further information on isolation shortening) and other purposes. Further information about the uses of the PCR test is found below.
  2. Rapid (antigen) test is slightly less sensitive than the PCR test but allows for rapid and adequate detection in order to allow access to facilities that must comply with the Green Pass restrictions for those who are unvaccinated and non-infected (for a period of 24 hours after testing).

You should know: Rapid testing kits for self-administration at home (sold in pharma chains and in pharmacies) do not have any official standing. They cannot be used to request a certificate of recovery or to enter places that must comply with Green Pass restrictions. If you test positive on a rapid self-test kit, you must isolate and take a PCR test immediately to confirm this test result.

Serologic Test

A serologic test is a blood test for the detection of coronavirus antibodies (as opposed to coronavirus swab tests that detect the virus itself). If you have not been vaccinated, a positive result on a serologic test is an indication that there are antibodies in your body that indicate recovery from the virus.

The test is not intended confirming a COVID-19 infection, for symptomatic coronavirus patients, for those who have been confirmed as recovered or for those who have already been vaccinated.

Serologic tests are administered in HMO clinics with medical staff discretion or upon arrival in Israel, in accordance with the Ministry of Health's policy on this matter.

When do I take a PCR test and when do I take a rapid test?

When do I take a PCR test?

You take a PCR test in four main cases:

1. The display of symptoms that may be consistent with coronavirus

You need take a PCR test if you experience one of the symptoms below:

  • Body temperature is 38 degrees Celsius or higher
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sore throat
  • Any other symptoms with acute onset that raises concerns for a viral infection

2. Exposure to a confirmed patient

You need to take a PCR test in one of the cases below:

  • If any member of your household has been confirmed as a coronavirus patient
  • If contact tracing determines you need to get tested, usually due to exposure to a confirmed patient

You need to test immediately when you were informed of your exposure to a confirmed patient.

3. Before traveling abroad or upon arrival in Israel

Before traveling abroad:

  • You should check the official websites of your travel destination to see what test is required and when

Upon arrival in Israel:

  • Before boarding the flight to Israel, you need to present a proof of a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours before the scheduled date of departure.
  • On arrival in Israel, you must take a PCR test at the airport. You must pay for the test; and it costs NIS 115 if you pay cash at the airport. It costs NIS 80 if you prepay via this link within 48 hours before boarding.

Detailed guidance for travelers arriving in Israel

4. To shorten the mandatory isolation period

It might be possible to shorten the mandatory isolation period if you test negative on two PCR tests and if you meet all other requirements for shorter isolation.

Further information on the requirements for shorter isolation

For other special cases that require a PCR test, see below.  

When do I take a rapid test and where is it valid?

Children and adults who are unvaccinated and non-infected should take a rapid test, to gain access facilities that must comply with the Green Pass restrictions for 24 hours after the test.

Tests should be taken in one of the accredited testing centers.

How to get a Green Pass with a rapid test

If a rapid test is taken at the entrance to one of the facilities that must comply with the Green Pass restrictions (not in an authorized center), a negative test result grants entry to that particular facility and it cannot be used to request a daily Green Pass to access other facilities. The reason is that private testing systems cannot forward test results to the Ministry of Health.

Special cases of PCR tests

Special cases that require a PCR test Who should take them and to what end
Testing before a medical procedure

A test is taken before elective (planned) procedures and surgeries in accordance with healthcare facility guidelines. The test is must be taken within 72 hours before surgery.

Testing due to disqualification of a previous test

The test is taken if a previous test has been disqualified, upon due notification.

Testing after receiving borderline-positive results

Taken if the previous test produced a borderline-positive result, in order to obtain a definite test result.

Testing for Green Pass

Taken in order to get a Green Pass for 72 hours from the time of testing. The test is privately-funded.
Testing of populations (screening tests)

Whom is the test for?

  • Teaching and administrative staff at schools and preschools
  • Residents of care facilities where highly vulnerable populations live (such as assisted living facilities or nursing homes), as part of the "Magen Avot VeImahot" program.
  • People who move into care facilities where highly vulnerable populations live (such as assisted living facilities or nursing homes). The test is to be taken within 72 hours before the move-in date.
  • Those with limited access to healthcare services who are believed to be at risk for infection (for example due to living in high density areas)
  • Yeshiva students

How and where do I get tested?

How do I take a coronavirus test?

Both PCR tests and rapid tests are administered in the same manner: By inserting a sterile swab (a small stick with a cotton-wool tip) into the oral and nasal cavity, in order to collect a sample. The sampling process takes a few seconds and is not painful.

Where to get tested?

According to Ministry of Health directives, PCR tests are done in HMO clinics (no need for a referral though sometimes you need to schedule an appointment, you should check your HMO website) and at Home Front Command's testing facilities (no need for a referral or appointment).

Find further information on HMO testing centers on HMO websites.

Further information on the Home Front Command's testing facilities

Those who cannot travel to the testing center due to medical reasons may request the HMO send a protected staff member to their home to take the test.

Those who do not have HMO insurance should call the Ministry of Health Hotline at *5400; they will be referred to get tested in Bikurofe clinics, if necessary.

Rapid tests are taken in accredited testing centers across the country as well as at the entrance to facilities that must comply with the Green Pass restrictions. Before traveling, it is recommended to check the testing center's websites to see if an appointment is required. For centers operated by Magen David Adom Medical Emergency Services, schedule an appointment in advance. Further information on the Magen David Adom website

How much does the test cost?

PCR tests in HMO clinics and Home Front Command's facilities are free of charge.

PCR tests in the airport before entry to Israel:

  • NIS 115 - for those paying at the airport in cash.
  • NIS 80 - prepayment, 48 hours before boarding, in the link you get at the end of the completion of the declaration form for travelers arriving in Israel.

Rapid tests in authorized testing centers across the country:

  • People 12 years and 3 months of age and older NIS – 52. Pay at the center.
  • Children 12 years and 3 months old and younger – free of charge.
  • People with contraindications to vaccination with the vaccine for COVID-19 – free of charge.

Test Results

When do you get a test result and how?

If it is a PCR test, the sample is sent to a laboratory for testing and results are received within 48 hours from the time of testing (delays are expected due to work overload in laboratories). Test results are sent by the HMOs and you can view them on HMO websites and applications or get them if you call an HMO center.

If you take a PCR test due to suspected symptoms or due to exposure to a confirmed case – you must stay in isolation until you receive your test results.

Rapid tests do not require a laboratory you can get a result within 15 to 30 minutes from the facility where the test was taken. Results are usually also sent over a text message (SMS) to your mobile phone. Even if you test positive, it does not necessarily mean that you are a confirmed coronavirus case. You need to take a PCR test within 48 hours and to isolate until the test result is received.

Updating the results on the Ministry of Health's systems

Results of rapid tests taken in one of the authorized centers, as well as the results of PCR tests taken by HMO clinics or on Home Front Command's testing facilities will be automatically forwarded to the Ministry of Health's systems. It might take up to 24 hours for the results to be updated on the Ministry of Health's systems. The results of private rapid tests taken at the entrance to facilities that must comply with the Green Pass restrictions are not updated at all on the Ministry of Health's systems.

PCR test results

Result Meaning Required Action
Positive A significant amount of coronavirus genetic material was detected in the sample

You must isolate or return to isolation immediately. HMO representatives will contact you for further information and guidelines.

Further information for those who must isolate

Further information for coronavirus patients
Negative No traces of coronavirus genetic material were found in the sample. However, it may be possible that during early infection stages the genetic material of the virus is too low and cannot be detected

Persons who have been instructed to isolate upon exposure to a confirmed patient or upon arrival in must complete the full isolation period (even if they test negative).

Further information for those who must to isolate

Further information on shortening isolation
Borderline-positive

Small amount of coronavirus genetic material was found in the sample, due to one of the following reasons:

1. The test was taken in an early stage of disease development and a follow-up test will a produce positive result.

2. The test was taken during the recovery phase.

3. Poor quality of either the testing kit or the sample.

Repeat the test within 24 to 48 hours after the first test, and stay in isolation until you receive the test result (you are not required to report your isolation).

* The results are true for the time of testing only. It is impossible to know whether you have been infected with coronavirus relying on this test.

False results

Coronavirus tests of any type have a margin of error; false results can be received:

  • False negative result: test results are negative even though the subject has been indeed infected with the coronavirus. Most errors of this type occur when the test is taken in the very early phases post-infection or before the onset of symptoms, or due to poor quality of either the testing kit or the sample.
  • False positive result: test results are positive even though the subject has not been infected with coronavirus. The likelihood of false positive results is very low.