Guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): getting tested

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You can get a swab test to check if you currently have coronavirus. This is part of the 5-pillar strategy for coronavirus testing. Testing is most effective within 3 days of symptoms developing.

Who can be tested

Anyone with symptoms can get a coronavirus test, whatever their age.

If you do not have symptoms, you can:

Find out about regular rapid tests if you do not have symptoms on NHS.UK.

Find out about testing in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Register a home test kit

This advice applies to home swab test kits that are sent to a lab for processing (PCR tests).

Once youve taken your sample, you must register it via the link below so that we can send your results to you:

Record a rapid lateral flow test result

If you had a rapid lateral flow test, you should get your result in 30 minutes after taking the test.

You must report a positive result to the NHS.

You can report your result online or by telephone:

  • England, Wales and Northern Ireland: 119 (free from mobiles and landlines)
  • Scotland: 0300 303 2713 (charged at your standard network rate)

We also ask that you report negative and invalid results: this helps the NHS to monitor the spread of the virus and support communities across the UK.

You do not need to report the results of tests that are processed at our labs (PCR tests).

If youre about to go to hospital

You may need to get tested if youre due to have surgery or a procedure.

The hospital will arrange this for you. Contact your hospital department if you have any questions.

Testing for essential workers with symptoms

If youre an essential worker and have symptoms of coronavirus, youre prioritised to get a test for coronavirus through the self-referral portal.

See the list of essential workers prioritised for COVID-19 testing.

Employers should direct essential workers to the self-referral portal to get a prioritised test as the employer referral portal is now closed.

The testing process

The first step of taking a test for coronavirus usually involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, which can be done by the person themselves (self-administered) or by someone else (assisted).

The different ways you can get tested are covered below.

Test sites

Weve established a network of drive-through and walk-through test sites for people with coronavirus symptoms. Test sites are open 7 days a week. If you have symptoms you can book a test at a site near you online or by calling 119.

Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have any symptoms. Anyone can now get regular rapid lateral flow tests without having symptoms. You can go to a rapid lateral flow test site to get a rapid test.

Find out about regular rapid tests if you do not have symptoms on NHS.UK.

Home tests

Home test kits can be delivered to your door so you can test yourself and your family without leaving your home.

Instructions in alternative formats

See instructions on testing for coronavirus at home in accessible formats.

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) can send you braille, audio or large print instructions. After ordering a home test you can either:

Get help to register and take the test

You can have a live video call with specially trained NHS Test and Trace staff to help you register and take a home coronavirus test. Download the free Be My Eyes appfor IOSorfor Androidand go to the specialised help section.

Home swab test kits that are sent to a lab for processing (PCR tests)

Most people get their result the next day but it can take up to 3 days. Anyone with symptoms can get a test online or by calling 119.

Watch how to take the test in this video: How to take a coronavirus self-test swab

Rapid tests that give a result in 30 minutes (lateral flow tests)

Find out about regular rapid tests if you do not have symptoms on NHS.UK.

Getting your results

How and when you get your results depends on the type of coronavirus test youre taking. Follow the instructions that come with your kit carefully to ensure you take the right steps for the kit youre using.

Get a test if youre visiting a care home

If youre visiting someone at a care home, you may be offered a rapid coronavirus test when you arrive. The care home youre visiting will provide you with the test kit. The test can tell if youre infectious or not within 2 hours.

Youll also be asked to put on protective clothing (PPE) as an additional step to help protect vulnerable residents. The degree of contact you can have with a care home resident will also depend on the care homes own regulations and on national restrictions.

Watch a video on what to expect when visiting a care home resident: How to prepare for your care home visit

See guidance on visiting arrangements in care homes.

Mobile testing units

Mobile testing units travel around the UK to increase access to coronavirus testing. They respond to need, travelling to test essential workers at sites including care homes, police stations and prisons.

New units are being brought into operation each day.

Satellite centres

NHS capability is being increased by providing test kits

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