COVID-19 Testing Service

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Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital laboratory is accredited and run by qualified professionals comprising of pathologists, technologists, clerks and laboratory assistants. The service is supported by the hospital’s robust Information Technology system. . All the team members are committed to achieving our vision.


The sample required for testing is one collected using a long swab that is inserted into the back of the nose (nasopharyngeal) and/or the back of the mouth (oropharyngeal). Taking the swab takes a few seconds only. The procedure is painless but one may experience some slight discomfort.  We collect samples from both adults and children. The test performed is a molecular test called PCR, which is the only test currently recommended by the Kenya Ministry of Health (MoH) as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO) for testing for the virus that causes COVID-19.

To get tested, one can book an appointment online for the swab(s) to be taken at any Gertrude’s branch. Appointments are encouraged so as to avoid queuing and overcrowding at the clinics. For adult clients who are feeling unwell, we advise you to see your doctor instead or visit a different facility so as to receive the medical care you may require. Before the sample is taken, you will be required to give your contact details and answer a few questions about any symptoms you may be having. All this information will be kept confidential and only shared as is required by law, with the Ministry of Health.


Results are ready within 24- 48 hours after receipt of the sample in the molecular lab. For samples received from out of Nairobi, keep in mind the transit time depending on the distance.

Once results are ready, you will receive a hard copy from Gertrude’s branch where your sample was collected.

Note that anyone with a positive result will also receive a call from The Ministry of Health surveillance team notifying them of their result.


One can get tested at all of Gertrude’s outpatient facilities within Nairobi, Thika and Mombasa.

Quality assurance

The molecular lab in particular has also been approved by The Ministry of Health as a Covid-19 testing facility after undergoing the necessary quality verifications and relevant regulatory body inspections. It has also been endorsed by the (Kenya Medical Research Institute) KEMRI as a credible testing site. Our laboratory is accredited by KENAS (Kenya Accreditation Service) and Joint Commission International (USA).



How long does the sample collection take?

The swab is inserted into the back of the nose and/or back of the mouth for a few seconds.

Is taking the swabs painful?

There is slight discomfort that is immediately relieved once the swab is taken out

How long will I have to wait in line to get tested?

If you keep your appointment time, you will not wait in line to be served.  There are staff who have been dedicated to specifically handle clients coming for sample collection only.  You will spend a maximum of 30 minutes in the clinic for the entire sample collection process

Will my medical insurance pay for the test?

Most insurance providers are not paying for the test at any facility. Confirm with your provider before coming for your appointment.  Cash payment, preferably via mobile money, is accepted

Who should get a COVID-19 diagnostic test?

Those who have symptoms, have been in close contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 or had symptoms of COVID-19, work in health care or have a job that involves regular close contact with others, those requiring admission to a hospital with specific conditions and those who need to travel outside the country for any reason

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath/difficulty in breathing, loss of sense of smell, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. In more severe cases, the infection can cause severe acute respiratory distress requiring oxygen therapy, organ failure and even death.

However, most people who become infected don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. In those with symptoms, the majority are mild and recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention

What does a positive test result mean?

A positive test result means that you most likely have COVID-19 now and should stay home (if you live alone or if your shared house can accommodate social distancing) and take precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, including wearing a mask, handwashing and physical distancing. The majority of those with the virus actually have no symptoms at all. Falsely positive results are possible but uncommon

What does a negative test result mean?

A negative test result means that you either do not have COVID-19 or you have it but it is too early or too late in the infection period for the virus to be detected by PCR. The virus can also mutate (change its genes) making it undetectable by PCR. You should continue to practice good hand hygiene and physical distancing and wear a face mask. This is especially important if you have symptoms because it is possible for you to have the virus but the test did not detect it. Additionally, a negative result does not mean that you are protected from getting infected by the virus. If you receive a negative result and do not have symptoms at the time of testing but symptoms appear later, a repeat test may be warranted.

Can I get an antibody test instead?

Antibodies are special proteins that the body produces to help fight off infections. They can be produced even if a person has few or no symptoms.  They can be tested for in blood samples. It generally takes some time after infection for antibodies to be produced and become detectable in blood, so antibody testing will not be accurate for someone who is or was recently sick.  Sometimes antibodies protect us from getting the same infection again (i.e. they give us immunity), but it is not yet known if this is true for COVID-19. It is also unknown how quickly antibodies are produced when someone has COVID-19 or about likely differences in the amount and type of antibodies people produce in response to infection.  Because of this, antibody testing is not recommended by either The MoH or WHO for diagnosing a current or past infection of COVID-19. The tests are currently being used for research purposes only.

I have heard of rapid COVID-19 antigen tests. What are they and is the test available at Gertrude’s?
Antigens are proteins that are foreign to the body that induces an immune response. Rapid antigen tests are based on the detection of such proteins that are found within the SARS-CoV-2 virus particle. These proteins can be detected in respiratory samples (e.g., nasal/nasopharyngeal swabs). The tests give results within a few minutes and come in small strips/cassettes like home pregnancy or HIV test kits.
As of February 2021, the Ministry of Health of Kenya has approved rapid antigen tests for individuals who fit the below criteria:
1.Those with COVID-19 symptoms.
2. Immediate household or workplace contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual.
3. Health care workers.
4. COVID-19 outbreak investigations in schools, colleges, prisons, religious/political gatherings.
5. Before being taken to prison or a remand facility.
6. Before hospital admission or before a surgical/dental procedure.
7. Those with no access to PCR:
a. Street families with symptoms/contact, children’s homes, homes for the elderly
b. At points of entry for arriving travellers if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a COVID-19 PCR certificate that has expired.
8. Community surveillance programs.

COVID-19 antigen tests are not recommended for the following purposes:

1. International travel certification. PCR remains the reference diagnostic test for COVID-19, and for now, it is the only type of test acceptable for international travel purposes.
2. Self-testing e.g., at home/work/school. This is strictly prohibited by The Ministry of Health.
3. Making treatment decisions.

Negative results do not exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection and they cannot be used as the sole basis for treatment or other management decisions. This means that if the rapid test is negative in a patient with symptoms or close contact with a positive individual, they will need the PCR test for confirmation. The rapid test is also more likely to give a false negative if you have a low viral load.
The sample taken is a nasopharyngeal swab with results within 30 minutes. Kindly book online if you would like to be tested.

If I receive a positive result, do I need to do a second test to confirm whether I have turned negative?

During the start of the pandemic, two more tests had to be done if the first one turned out to be positive. These two samples had to be collected at least 48 hours apart and at least 10 days since the first positive COVID-19 result. The results for both of these tests had to be negative for one to be discharged from hospital/quarantine.

Now that more is known about the virus that causes COVID-19 and due to increasing demand for a testing kit, it is not necessary to repeat testing later after an initial positive result. It has been discovered that people are not actually infectious 10 days after the start of symptoms. These new guidelines have also been adopted by The Ministry of Health. The guidelines state that one will be considered as fully recovered and not requiring repeat testing if at least 3 days have passed since recovery (defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms) and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared

Note that some workplaces/other institutions may require you to have done repeat testing to confirm your negative status, despite the above guidelines.

After a positive result, how long do I have to wait before returning to work?

The Ministry of Health has adopted the CDC return to work guidelines. You can return to work if at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms), and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

I have heard of some people remaining COVID-19 positive for several weeks. Are they infectious?

In some individuals, the virus has been detected by PCR even beyond week 6 following the first positive test.  A few cases have also been reported positive after 2 consecutive negative PCR tests. It is unclear if this is a testing error, reinfection, or reactivation of the virus. It has also been discovered that samples remain positive for different durations depending on where they were collected from. For instance, sputum can remain positive for longer than a nasopharyngeal swab sample.

Fortunately, studies have shown that patients who have remained positive even 10 days after the initial positive result are not infectious to their close contacts. All their contacts tested negative. Thus it is believed that after 10 days, one is most likely shedding dead virus particles that can be detected in PCR tests but that are not in fact infectious to others.

How come a sample tested in one lab may give a different result from that tested at another lab (discrepant results)?

There are a number of reasons why different results can be obtained from the same patient. These include:

  • Different specimen types: Lower respiratory tract specimens (e.g. collected directly from the trachea using special procedures) tend to give more positive results than upper respiratory ones (nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs). However, upper respiratory samples are safer, faster and easier to collect
  • The timing of sample collection: One sample may have been taken too early or too late in the disease for the virus to be detected by PCR
  • The commonest reason however is the different PCR kits and machines and the result interpretation algorithms used by individual labs