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  • Test criteria

Test criteria for coronavirus

Published Updated

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested.

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The following should be tested*: 

  1. Everyone with acute respiratory tract infection or other symptoms of COVID-19
  2. Contact tracing: 
    1. Close contacts at the start and end of quarantine
    2. In the case of outbreaks; widened testing of other contacts
    3. People who have been notified by Smittestopp
  3. Arrival in Norway
    1. Mandatory testing at borders
    2. Mandatory test 7 days (from the day after you left your home country) after arrival in Norway
  4. Other screening after infectional control assessment:
    1. When moving in/being admitted to certain healthcare institutions 
    2. Regular testing in certain situations
  5.  Anyone who suspects that they have COVID-19 

The following can also be tested: 

People who are not suspected to be sick: 

  • People who need to be tested for a COVID-19 certificate**

*Supplementary information further down the page.

**antigen tests are used for access testing

For testing with symptoms associated with vaccination, see: 

COVID-19 consultations and testing are free in the public health service for everyone who is staying in the country, regardless of residence status

  • There is usually no basis for forcing people without symptoms to be tested, according to the Infection Control Act.

Supplementary information about who should be tested

1) Test with newly arisen respiratory tract infection or other symptoms of COVID-19

Everyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested as soon as possible. This includes anyone with a newly arisen respiratory tract infection or other symptoms of COVID-19. COVID-19 often has the following symptoms; fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, or feeling unwell.

For residents of nursing homes, there should be an extremely low threshold for testing at the least suspicion of COVID-19.

Children should also be tested, in consultation with their parents.  Children with a runny nose as the only symptom, who are otherwise in general good health without other signs of a newly arisen respiratory tract infection, do not need to be kept at home or tested.

Everyone who is tested should stay at home until a negative test result is available. With a negative test, they can return to work/school when their general condition is good (they feel well and have no fever), even though they still have a few symptoms after the respiratory tract infection.

For deaths in healthcare institutions where a doctor suspects that the patient had COVID-19, postmortem tests for COVID-19 should be performed.

2) Contact tracing

a) Close contacts at start and end of quarantine

All close contacts should be tested. Testing should preferably be done both at the start of the quarantine and again at least 7 days after the last exposure. With limited test capacity, it is recommended to prioritise the last test. It is recommended that children also be tested, but this must be done in consultation with parents / guardians.

Testing at the start of the quarantine will make contact tracing efforts more efficient, to quarantine any close contacts more quickly and isolate people who test positive. The first test can be either a rapid antigen test or PCR.

Tests at the end of the quarantine are taken to identify infected people with few or no symptoms. Shortened quarantine with tests taken no earlier than 7 days after exposure is considered to be better than 10 days in quarantine. PCR is required for shortened quarantine.

b) With outbreaks: widened testing of other contacts

In situations with large, complex outbreaks, it is recommended to also test other contacts than those defined as close contacts. This may, for example, apply to others in the workplace or in the school grade than those defined as close contacts. Such testing can be useful to quickly find other infected people and form a situational analysis of transmission and extent of the outbreak.

Both rapid antigen testing and PCR are appropriate test methods.

c) People notified by the Smittestopp app

People who receive a notification from the Smittestopp app that they may have been exposed to infection, are encouraged to be tested. As it is unknown when transmission may have occurred, and because a few days after exposure will have passed, they should be tested as soon as possible.

Both rapid antigen testing and PCR are appropriate test methods. Rapid tests are especially useful for infection clarification where response time to PCR is long (> 24 hours). More about this can be found in the chapter about antigen testing (in Norwegian): 

3) Arrival in Norway

a) Mandatory testing at border crossings

The main rule is that everyone who arrives in Norway from areas or countries with a high incidence of COVID-19 must be tested on arrival, at the border crossing point in Norway. Children under the age of 12 must also be tested, but not if it is unreasonably demanding to take the test. Do not use force. When testing children, take the sample from the front part of the nose.

Usually rapid tests are taken. All positive rapid test results must be confirmed by a PCR test taken within 24 hours.

b) Mandatory testing 7 days after arrival

All travellers shall be tested with PCR 7 days after the day they arrive in Norway.  Shortened quarantine with a negative test taken no earlier than 7 days after arrival is considered a better alternative than 10 full days in quarantine because asymptomatic cases can be identified.

4. Other screening after infection control assessment

a) When moving in / being admitted to certain health institutions

Before moving into a nursing home, new unvaccinated residents should be tested. Retesting after 3-5 days should be considered.

Before admission to certain health institutions, testing may be relevant. The health institution's infection control officer will provide advice on this.

PCR is the recommended test method.

b) Regular testing in certain situations

After a specific infection control assessment, advice can be given about testing different groups more regularly for better control in certain situations with widespread transmission. Regular testing can be as effective and less intrusive than, for example, closing upper secondary schools.

In such situations, rapid antigen testing will be most appropriate.

5) Anyone who suspects they are infected with COVID-19 should be given the opportunity to get tested

A person who believes or suspects that they are infected with COVID-19 should be offered a test, if there is sufficient capacity.

Other people who want a test for other reasons, for example because they need a health certificate before leaving the country, can also be tested, but the test will then usually not be covered by the public sector.

Test for use in COVID-19 certificate

A negative COVID-19 test taken during the last 24 hours is equivalent with vaccination and immunity after having COVID-19 disease in the COVID-19 certificate. Testing will mainly take place using rapid antigen tests, will take place under the supervision of the responsible doctor and will be notified to MSIS.

Recommended order of priority with a lack of testing capacity

If there is a lack of testing capacity, testing should be carried out in the following order of priority.

(Since testing is mandatory at the border after arrival from a country with quarantine duty, this is no longer included in the order of priority.)

A) People with symptoms

  1. Patient in need of hospital admission
  2. Patient / resident in a nursing home or other healthcare institution
  3. Employee in the healthcare service with work that puts them in the vicinity of patients
  4. Person in a risk group, see risk groups and their relatives
  5. People who have been exposed to infection
  6. Other people with symptoms

B) People without symptoms who have been exposed to infection: 

  1. Outbreak situations in healthcare institutions
  2. A close contact to a confirmed case of COVID-19

C) Others

2020-11-02 Flytskjema_engelsk.png

Interpreting the test results

The PCR-test for COVID-19 is a good test with very high specificity and good sensitivity.

The clinical sensitivity of PCR from the nasopharyngeal sample during the disease period is estimated at around 80 %. The sensitivity of the test depends on where in the course of the disease the infected person is. It is highest in the days around the start of symptoms, when it is probably over 90 %.

The clinical specificity is very high (99, 999%), but be aware that PCR only detects the genetic material, and not whether the virus is contagious or able to multiply. People who have undergone COVID-19 may excrete virus residues for 2-3 months after undergoing infection (usually 20 days after the onset of symptoms). This means that a positive result may represent a past, and no longer contagious, infection. During the first 3 months after infection, a new PCR test should rarely be performed.

If re-infection is suspected after 3 months, a new test can be taken but the result should still be interpreted with caution. Contact the NIPH for advice.

No test is completely accurate and the result must be interpreted according to the probability that the person is infected. 

In the current infection situation, the probability is high that a positive test is correct, even in those cases where the person has no symptoms or known exposure, and does not need to be confirmed by a new test. If the test result is considered to be unlikely, a new test should be considered to confirm the result. If the result is slightly positive (CT value above 33) in an asymptomatic person without an increased risk of infection, a new PCR and possible antibody test can help to clarify where the person is in the course of the disease.

If the test result is negative, and there is still a strong clinical suspicion of COVID-19, a new sample should be taken. The probability of a false negative test result should be assessed on the basis of whether the person is known to have close contact, the clinical suspicion, time since the onset of symptoms and the CT value.

Test results from other localisations such as saliva, anterior nose, throat or bronchioalveolar lavage (BAL) have different test properties.

Waiting for test results

The main rule is that anyone who has been tested must stay at home until their test result becomes available. Household members do not have to be in quarantine.

There are some exceptions to the main rule:

  • People who have been tested even though they have no symptoms or have not been exposed to infection, do not have to stay at home awaiting a test result.
  • People who are in quarantine who have symptoms compatible with COVID-19 are considered as "probable COVID-19" pending test results. This means that the person who is sick is in isolation and household members and equivalent close contacts are in quarantine until test results become available.

Test results at helsenorge.no

As soon as coronavirus tests are analysed, the laboratory sends the test results to:

  • NIPH laboratory database 
  • The doctor - the result is shown in the electronic summary care record that healthcare personnel can access on helsenorge.no 
  • The patient's test results page at helsenorge.no

The patient can log on to Helsenorge.no with electronic ID to see their test result. 

Notification by mobile phone or e-mail about test results

You may now receive notification by SMS or e-mail when the test result is ready. To receive an SMS or e-mail notification, you must have created a user account on helsenorge.no. Over 4 million inhabitants already have a user account there. Those who are unsure whether they have a user account can go to helsenorge.no and choose to log in.

People who have not previously used Helsenorge will be asked if they want to consent to use. The user can decide whether they want notification by SMS, e-mail, or both. This is done by changing the settings at helsenorge.no/contactinformation.

The user will have access to their own test results, and those of their own children aged under 16 years. 

Many viruses and bacteria can cause respiratory tract infections. In the search for the correct diagnosis, it may be necessary to request other analyses for respiratory tract infections.  Analysis results from the additional tests will be available to the patient on the test results website on Helsenorge.no and for the doctor in the summary care record.

A list of these additional tests is approved by the Ministry of Health and Care Services, see below. It is important that the person ordering the tests should explain to the patient about the different tests that are being sent for analysis.

The following are defined by the Ministry of Health and Care Services as COVID-19 related test results, this means both different tests for SARS-CoV-2 and additional tests for viruses and bacteria that can cause similar symptoms.. The list is updated as of 2nd July 2020, and will be continuously updated at helsenorge.no:

  • SARS-CoV-2
  • SARS-CoV-2 antibodies
  • Influenza A / Influenza B
  • Parainfluenza virus
  • RS virus (Respiratory syncytial virus)
  • Human metapneumovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Rhinovirus
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia
  • Chlamydia pneumonia
  • Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough)

PCR test refers to PCR and other nucleic acid amplification tests.

Other nucleic acid amplification (NAT) tests are considered equivalent to PCR tests (as specified in COVID-19 regulations).


01.07.2021: Updated text according to changes in COVID-19 regulations where waiting quarantine is removed from 1 July 2021.

23.06.2021: Clarification that other nucleic acid amplification tests (NAT) are considered equivalent to PCR tests (also specified in the COVID-19 regulations)

20.06.2021: Addition to test criteria regarding use of test to COVID-19 certificate

19.05.2021: Change of sentence about testing and vaccination status.

30.04.2021: Added that PCR test 7 days after entry is mandatory, cf. regulatory change

20.04.2021: Removed point about healthcare personnel who have been abroad from order of priority, according to test criteria

20.04.2021: Updated text about testing children under 12 years upon arrival in Norway. Removed text about PCR testing of travellers from certain countries, according to the regulations.

19.03.2021: Specified use of rapid testing with long response time.

12.02.2021: Updated according to changes in the Norwegian version

28.01.2021: Added that the quarantine can also be terminated by negative PCR taken no earlier than 7 days after exposure. Added that in special situations, tests can also be considered at the start of the quarantine (eg uncontrolled outbreaks, overcrowding, risk groups).

27.01.2021: Removed "This does not apply to travellers from the UK or South Africa"  that was under the sentence "***** Provided there is sufficient test capacity, entry quarantine may be shortened after negative PCR test for COVID-19 no earlier than seven days after arrival."

26.01.2021:Updated to reflect changes to the Covid-19 regulation sections 4 and 6, in effect January 25th, 2021

25.01.2021: New text on the top of this page "When handling outbreaks where a new variant from the United Kingdom has been detected (UK B.1.1.7 (VOC2020 / 01) or with an epidemiological connection to such an outbreak, the NIPH recommends that everyone who is defined as a close contact should be tested immediately with PCR and retested with PCR before leaving the quarantine (at the earliest day 7)."

19.01.2021: Updated text about mandatory testing on arrival in Norway

02.01.2021: Text and link added about the Government`s introduction of mandatory testing for travellers to Norway from January 2nd. Smaller text changes due to this. Added sentence about this being removed from order of priority in the event of a lack of test capacity.

31.12.2020: Added text and link that the government introduces mandatory testing for COVID-19 for arrivals to Norway from 2 January 2021. fhi.no will be updated when the measure is introduced. Added testing for shortened entry quarantine.

28.12.2020: Added "Children under the age of 12 are recommended to have the same testing regime as other people arriving from the United Kingdom."

22.12.2020 Added recommendation for testing close contacts to travellers over 12 years-old arriving from UK who have tested positive. 

21.12.2020:  Changed sentence to "After arrival from the United Kingdom, a PCR test is required from 21 December within 24 hours of arrival in Norway and then a new test on day 7 at the earliest after arrival. This currently applies until 10 January"

20.12.2020: Added sentence "People arriving from the UK are especially encouraged to be tested in the first 24 hours after arrival" and "or after travel" to the text about testing children (*)

18.12.2020: Updated text about testing children (*). Added text/updated section about results on mobile phone. 

03.12.2020: This paragraph is removed: "Why is testing of people without symptoms and without exposure not usually recommended?"

30.11.2020: Clarified section about test results at helsenorge.no. Clarified recommendations on low threshold for testing of staff in nursing homes and recommended regular testing in areas with high transmission. Removed advice linked to outbreak among mink in Denmark. Updated in relation to the current epidemiological situation and current knowledge about properties of SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR. Flowcharts and tables that are no longer considered useful in the current situation have been removed.

23.11.2020: Added some clarifications, to make it clear that these are analysis results. Updated Figures 1 and 2.

19.11.2020: minor change to paragraphs about test results.

18.11.2020: edited section about COVID-19- related test results. Added link to test results page on helsenorge.no

10.11.2020 Added that it is particularly important that new arrivals from Denmark are tested because of findings of mutated virus.

04.11.2020: Updated flowchart under C) Others.

02.11.2020: Added that it is recommended that all close contacts of lower secondary school age and above are tested.

23.09.2020: Small changes in the numbers in figures 1 and 2 that show examples of testing of 100 000 individuals (without symptoms, not exposed, randomly selected).

22.09.2020: Clarified "even though they still have a few symptoms after the respiratory tract infection." Added "Since both viruses and bacteria can cause respiratory tract infections or other COVID-19 related symptoms, other tests in addition to SARS-CoV-2 may be required in the search for a correct diagnosis. The analysis results from these tests are also available for patients who log onto helsenorge.no. The person ordering the tests should explain to the patient what they are being tested for." 

17.09.2020: Updated flowchart and added link to the PDF version.

15.09.2020: Estimate for specificity changed from 99.9% to 99.999% in text and figures.

04.09.2020: Added "With a negative test, they can return to work/school when their general condition is good (they feel well and have no fever), even though they still have some symptoms of respiratory tract infection."

28.08.2020: Updated flow chart on interpreting COVID-19 test results. Fact sheet updated with that you should stay at home until a negative COVID-19 test result is available and you are in good general condition. Added paragraph about waiting for test results.

27.08.2020: Changed from "The doctor at the test centre is responsible for informing the patient and their regular doctor of the test result, and for notifying the Norwegian Surveillance System for Communicable Diseases (MSIS) of any positive results on the same day they are available" to "The doctor at the test centre is responsible for informing the patient and their regular doctor of the test result (both positive and negative test results), and for notifying the Norwegian Surveillance System for Communicable Diseases (MSIS) of any positive results on the same day they are available." 
Added "Children play a smaller role in transmission of COVID-19 than adults, so testing of children of primary school or child care age without symptoms will therefore be of less significance. However, testing can be carried out if desired and in consultation with parents/guardians".   

Updated * and ** in the first flow chart - from "children under 10 years" and "symptom-free to *Children of primary school/ child care age who only have a runny nose and are in general good health without other symptoms of new respiratory tract infection do not need to stay at home. **For children of primary school/ child care age who have mild symptoms, observe the symptoms at home before testing. If they recover quickly, they can return to school / child care without being tested.

20.08.2020: Moved the sentence "Anyone who suspects that they have COVID-19 should have the opportunity to be tested" to point number 4 in the list over who should be tested.

15.08.2020: Clarified responsibility around sending in MSIS notifications. Clarified advice about testing upon arrival from regions (not areas) with high incidence.

13.08.2020: Changed point 2 in supplementary information about who should be tested - removed distinction between "household members and equivalent close contacts" and "other close contacts".

12.08.2020: Test criteria updated as per Norwegian version.

31.07.2020: Added to the text box: People returning from countries which, after their return, were categorised as "red" should be given priority for testing (Norwegian Government decision of 23 July 2020).

23.07.2020: Added section of interpretation of positive PCR test results after disease review.

20.07.2020: Added a new point that Health personnel, who will work close to the patient, within 10 days after a trip abroad to "green countries", can be considered tested even if they are asymptomatic. And a new point that close contacts who are in quarantine (household members and similar close contacts) can be tested to hasten further infection tracking, if the laboratory capacity allows it.

17.07.2020: Added a point that Health personnel who will work close to the patient within 10 days after a trip abroad to «green countries», should be tested even if they are asymptomatic.

03.07.2020: Updated flowcharts. Changed "new respiratory tract infection infection" to "newly arisen respiratory tract infection. 

01.07.2020: Added section: COVID-19-related test results at helsenorge.no and in Summary care records

29.06.2020: Updated flowchart for COVID-19 testing. Emphasised that newly arisen respiratory tract infections should be tested. Added exemptions for children under 10-years-old.

24.06.2020: Added sentence "Everyone who is tested should stay at home until they get a negative test result AND they are symptom-free" in the section "everyone with symptoms should be tested". Changed sentence about symptoms that are less typical to "With other symptoms that are not typical for COVID-19 among people who do not need medical attention, the symptoms can be observed at home before being considered for testing."

22.06.2020: Adjusted text about test criteria, as per Norwegian version

19.06.2020: Updated who should be tested (first and second paragraphs in body text)

11.06.2020: Added flowchart for interpretation of results

04.06.2020: Added that close contacts who are not going to be quarantined should be tested.

31.05.2020: Added that testing can be an alternative to quarantine. Clarified interpretation of unexpected test results. Removed flowchart that is now incorrect after changes to COVID-19 regulations.

28.05.2020: Added figures 1 and 2.

26.05.2020: Put prioritisation list in a text box, clarified that everyone with symptoms should be tested if capacity is available.

25.05.2020: Updated as per Norwegian version. 

07.05.2020: Updated ingress as per Norwegian version. "It is advised that everyone with suspected COVID-19 should be tested. With limits in testing capacity, the following order of priority is recommended:"


Removed "This is why the quarantine period cannot be shortened based on a negative test result" from paragraph about "Why people without symptoms are not tested."

Removed paragraph about the strategy, as per Norwegian version.


Added ****Should preferably monitor symptoms at home for 2 days before considering testing.


Changes as per Norwegian text. Changed paragraph about prioritised indications for testing of COVID-19. Added sentence "People with acute respiratory tract infections with fever, cough or breathing difficulties, or who a doctor suspects has COVID-19" over list of prioritised groups.

Updated point 4 as per Norwegian text and changed some of the diseases under ***

Added "With a negative test result but strong clinical suspicion of COVID-19, consider re-testing."

Clarification - if there is good capacity, it is recommended to test everyone with symptoms that could be due to COVID-19, particularly with admission.