Case definition for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as of 29 May 2020

Case definition

Clinical criteria

Any person with at least one of the following symptoms [1]:

  • cough
  • fever
  • shortness of breath
  • sudden onset of anosmia, ageusia or dysgeusia

Diagnostic imaging criteria

Radiological evidence showing lesions compatible with COVID-19

Laboratory criteria

Detection of SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid in a clinical specimen [2]

Epidemiological criteria

At least one of the following two epidemiological links:

  • close contact [3] with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the 14 days prior to onset of symptoms
  • having been a resident or a staff member, in the 14 days prior to onset of symptoms, in a residential institution for vulnerable people where ongoing COVID-19 transmission has been confirmed

Case classification

  1. Possible case:
    Any person meeting the clinical criteria
  2. Probable case:
    Any person meeting the clinical criteria with an epidemiological link
    Any person meeting the diagnostic criteria  
  3. Confirmed case:
    Any person meeting the laboratory criteria



The term “suspect cases” which addressed individuals who should be tested for COVID-19 is no longer used. Read more on testing strategies

[1] Additional less specific symptoms may include headache, chills, muscle pain, fatigue, vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

[2] Further guidance on laboratory issues on the page: Laboratory support

[3] Close contact defined according to the ECDC guidance document ‘Contact tracing: Public health management of persons, including healthcare workers, having had contact with COVID-19 cases in the European Union’