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Testing
explained.

Testing is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. There are 2 types of testing for COVID-19; polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or a rapid lateral flow test (LFT).

Why should you get tested?

It is important to get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have had any contact with anyone who has COVID-19.
  • If you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms (a fever, new continuous cough or a loss or change to taste and smell), you could have COVID-19. You need to take a PCR test to confirm you have the virus.
  • If you test positive, you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to other people you know by staying at home and self-isolating.
  • Testing can save lives. 1 in 3 people don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms so doing regular lateral flow tests helps to stop you from unintentionally spreading COVID-19 to your friends, family and community.
  • Lateral flow tests are 99.97% accurate and identify the most infectious of people (people who don’t have any symptoms), so a positive test means you have COVID-19 and should self-isolate, even if you feel well.
  • Testing is free and really quick. See the table below for the different types of tests you can take.

The types of testing

There are two types of testing for COVID-19; polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or a rapid lateral flow test (LFT). Both tests are free and available to anyone in the UK.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests

This type of test is for people who have COVID-19 symptoms. They results are sent to a lab to be checked.

PCR tests are for:

  • If you have symptoms
  • Swab your tonsils and nostrils
  • Visit a local test site or receive a home kit in the post
  • Send your test away to a lab
  • Results usually within 24 hours
  • Self-isolate for up to 10 days if positive
Book a FREE PCR test

Lateral Flow (LFT) tests

This test should be used by people who do not have symptoms. They give a quick result using a device similar to a pregnancy test. You can order your free tests online or pick them up at your local pharmacy or community centre.

LFTs are for:

  • If you have NO symptoms
  • Swab your nose only
  • Test at home
  • Wait to get your results
  • Results in 15-30 minutes
  • Self-isolate for up to 10 days if positive
Order FREE lateral flow tests
Top Tip

Do a lateral flow test twice a week (3 or 4 days apart) especially if you are planning on going to big events, family gatherings or into crowded spaces. This way you can help reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 to people you care about or to lots of people at once.

When do you need a PCR test?

You must get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms, however mild. If you have any of the above symptoms you should stay at home and self-isolate and only leave home to get a test.

A fever

A temperature over 38 degrees celsius or you feel hot to touch on your chest or back.

A new, continuous cough

You cough a lot for more than an hour or 3 or more times a day (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than normal).

A loss, or change, to your sense of smell or taste

You can’t smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste differently.

Fact

About 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms but can still infect others. This is why doing regular lateral flow tests are so important.

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How to get a PCR test

Call 119 for help and advice

Go to a walk-in or drive through site

How to do a PCR test

Lateral flow tests

Rapid lateral flow tests help find cases in people who may have no symptoms but are still infectious and can give the virus to others. You can order lateral flow testing kits here.

The test usually involves taking a sample from your throat and nose, or nose only, using a swab.

If you do a rapid lateral flow test at home, you’ll get your result within 15 – 30 minutes. If you did the test at a test site, you’ll get a text or email with your result within 2 hours. You should get another rapid lateral flow test if you don’t get your result within 12 hours.

Top Tip

Lateral flow tests are free and help to detect COVID-19 if you have no symptoms. You can order them here, pick them up from your local pharmacy or community centre or Call 119 (free from mobiles and landlines. Lines open from 7am to 11pm).

Testing
FAQ

We have collated some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 testing. If you can’t see your question here, contact us.

Question

When should I take a PCR test?

You should get a PCR test as soon as possible if:

  • You have COVID-19 symptoms
  • You had a PCR test and your test sample could not be read

If you have symptoms you must self-isolate until you receive your results.

When should I take a lateral flow test?

Anyone can now get regular rapid lateral flow tests without having symptoms.

About 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms but can still infect others. You should do a rapid test regularly especially at times when you are most likely to catch and spread the virus to check if you have the virus. If people test positive and self-isolate, it helps stop the virus spreading.

Even if you’re vaccinated, there’s still a chance you can pass COVID-19 on, so you should keep getting tested regularly.