Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve put together a list of commonly asked questions to provide you with more information about organising a COVID-19 test before you travel. Please read the questions below and if we haven’t answered your query, please send us an email.

The real-time RT-PCR (reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction) test is a combined nasal and throat swab sample.

This test is looking for the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2; the virus that causes COVID-19.

This is the gold standard test currently required for all countries.

This is a blood test and only certain countries require this test. 

This test detects IgM antibodies. IgM is usually the first antibody produced by the immune system when a virus attacks. When IgM is detected you may still be infected, or you may have recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection.

Important information about the COVID-19 IgM (blood) test
Only select the COVID IgM test option when COVID-19 IgM is specifically required by a country (transit or destination) or an airline. Check with the embassy or airline for their latest requirements.

Do not choose the test option that includes COVID-19 IgM if is it not required.  If you have the blood test unnecessarily performed its result may prevent you from travelling.

COVID-19 serology testing (IgM)

SARS-CoV-2 serology testing is available at Melbourne Pathology 
Currently, the main role of COVID-19 serology is in the retrospective diagnosis of disease. Testing is not advised until at least 14 days after a suspected illness. This test does NOT diagnose acute infection in the patient. COVID-19 serology assesses if the person has an immune response to the virus, which takes at least two weeks to develop. It may be useful when symptomatic individuals with suspected COVID-19 have not been tested by PCR for SARS-CoV-2 at the time of their illness, or when their result was negative or inconclusive. It can also identify those whose previous infection was asymptomatic.

While most infected individuals will have detectable antibody by the third week after symptom onset, the duration of the antibody response remains uncertain and whether it results in protective immunity, has not been established. It is important that all patients who have had infection with SARS-CoV-2, whether diagnosed by PCR or serology, should still have a COVID-19 vaccine once eligible.

Pre-travel testing
Our initial test is with the Roche Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Total antibody test, which detects both IgG and IgM. If testing for COVID-19 by IgM is required for immigration purposes, along with PCR, this will be covered by this assay. All samples which are reactive by this assay are reflexed to a second assay, the Diasorin Liaison IgG Anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG test. These tests have been accredited by NATA for use in our laboratory.

For those requiring a COVID RT-PCR + IgM serology test for travel purposes, these patients must attend one of our asymptomatic COVID testing branches listed above. Click here to view the closest available collection centre to you. Please check the hours of COVID testing prior to presenting. Patients cannot attend one of these branches for a COVID test if they have COVID symptoms.

COVID serology for immunity testing
COVID-19 serology is a blood test that may detect previous COVID-19 infection. 
There is no available data on the utility of current serology testing to determine the immunity gained from COVID-19 vaccination, so it is not generally recommended for this purpose.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of the testing requirements of the state or country you are traveling to.

Please check with your embassy, travel agent, airline, shipping line, or destination country or state for testing requirements.

There is a collection window that you must present within to comply with your state/country/airline/ship.

Please ensure that collection complies with this time-frame.

For example, if your required testing time window is 48 hours before departure, please do not present before the 48 hour time window or after 40 hours.

During your COVID-19 collection booking process with us, you will be provided with a date calculator outlining guaranteed testing timeframes.

IMPORTANT: If you present within 40 hours of departure, you may not receive your result in time.

If you are travelling and being tested within 24 hours of departure, please contact our Results Department on 03 9287 7777 if you haven’t received your report (but have received your SMS result).


Travel requirement
COVID-19 testing within 72 hours of departure

Departing Australia
3pm on 19 November

Collection window
3pm 16 November to 3pm 18 November

COVID-19 testing window example

In this example above, you must not present before 3pm on 16 November, or after 3pm on 18 November.

No, you don't need to make an appointment to have your COVID swab collected for travel testing. Provided you are asymptomatic, you can attend any of the 19 collection centres listed under step 3. No appointment necessary.

A pathology request is a form containing your information that you must bring along with you when your sample is collected.

You will receive this form via email which is password encrypted, with a 128-bit key, after you have purchased the test.

This pathology request form will be accompanied by a tax invoice.

It is essential that you print and bring this form with your passport, to the COVID travel collection centre.

To view an example request form and tax invoice, click the image below.

Sonic Travel Testing sample request form

Your request form is valid for three months from the day you order your test. You can use it any time up to its expiry date. Please remember to check with the embassy, travel agent, airline, shipping line, or destination country or state for COVID-19 testing requirements.

Unfortunately, Internet Explorer does not support the use of Sonic Travel Testing.

Compatible browsers to book and pay for your COVID-19 test through Sonic Travel Testing are ChromeEdgeFirefox, and Safari.

The Sonic Travel Testing service terms and conditions of use can be viewed by clicking on the button below.

Terms and conditions of use

Updated Wednesday, 15 September 2021