Testing

Here you will find some of the latest information and news about testing.


Types of tests:

There are 2 main types of Covid-19 tests:

PCR tests – mainly used for people who have symptoms, they are sent to a lab to be checked and you get the results within a day or two.

Lateral flow tests – only used for people with no symptoms, they give a result within 30 minutes using a device similar to a pregnancy test.

You should follow the below information even if you are double vaccinated.

You can order both of these tests for free. 

You may be asked to take either of these tests if you are visiting a health and care setting.

Information about each of these tests can be found below, including how to get them and what to do after your results.

Please note the information on the page does not relate to tests needed for travel. For travel test information click here. 


Lateral flow tests:

Lateral flow tests can be used by people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19. If you have symptoms you should order a PCR test and self-isolate, even if your symptoms are mild. We have more information about PRC tests on this page.

Lateral tests help to check if someone has Covid-19. If people test positive and self-isolate, it helps stop the virus from spreading. Research shows lateral tests are a reliable test for Covid-19. They give a quick result and do not need to be sent to a lab.

Even if you are vaccinated, you could still catch the virus or pass it on. Doing lateral tests helps to protect yourself and others.

If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, you should take lateral flow tests daily for at least 7 days even if you are fully vaccinated. 


How to get lateral flow tests:

You can order lateral flow tests here.

You can not use this service to book tests for travel. 

You can also collect lateral flow tests from:

  • Pharmacies
  • Community centres such as libraries
  • Some test sites
  • Supermarkets

If you are unsure where to collect lateral flow tests from, click here to use the NHS website’s collection point finder.



Taking a lateral flow test:

Lateral flow tests can be taken by people who do not have symptoms and can be taken every couple of days. Around 1 in 3 people with Covid-19 do not have symptoms. Lateral flow tests help to find cases in people who may have no symptoms but are still infectious and can give the virus to others, even if they have been vaccinated. 

Take lateral flow tests on days when you’re more likely to catch or spread Covid-19, for example, take a test before you mix with people in crowded or indoor places, visiting family etc. and don’t go out if your result is positive. Steps like this can help stop the spread of the virus. 

If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, you should take lateral flow tests daily for at least 7 days even if you are fully vaccinated. 

The test usually involves taking a sample from your throat and nose, or from your nose only, using a swab. You get a result in 15 to 30 minutes depending on the type of rapid lateral flow test you’ve taken.


Reporting your test results:

You should report the results the day you or someone in your household takes the test, no matter what the result is. You can report your results here.

You can also report your results via the NHS Covid-19 App. 


What to do next:

If your result is negative, it is unlikely that you have Covid-19. It is important to know that a negative test result does not guarantee that you do not have Covid-19 and there is still a chance you could be infectious. If you start to feel unwell after a negative test result you should stay home until you are feeling better.

A positive test result means that is likely that you have Covid-19 and you should self-isolate immediately. You should get a PCR test as soon as possible and continue to isolate until you have your results from the PCR test depending on the result.

If you take a PCR test within 2 days of a positive lateral flow test and your PCR test is negative, you can stop self-isolating. If you take a PCR test later than this, you’ll need to self-isolate for 10 full days even if you get a negative PCR result.


PCR tests

Unlike a Lateral Flow test which is done at home and gives you a result in minutes, the PCR test needs to be sent off to a lab to get your results. 

You should get a PCR test if:

  • you have symptoms of Covid-19, no matter how mild the symptoms
  • you have a positive or unclear lateral flow test result, even if you do not have symptoms 
  • you need to get a test for someone you live with who has symptoms
  • you are in the National Tactical Response Group
  • you have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive
  • you have been asked to get a test by the local council or someone from NHS Test and Trace
  • a GP or other health professional has asked you to get a test
  • you are taking part in a government pilot project

If you have symptoms, a positive or unclear lateral flow test result, you should self-isolate. Stay home unless you have to attend a PCR test appointment, post your test to the lab or you get a negative PCR test result. 


How to get PCR tests:

You can order your PCR test online via the Government website here. You can also call 119 between 7am and 11pm. 


Taking a PCR test:

You should take a PCR test as soon as possible if you have symptoms or have a positive or unclear lateral flow test result. 

If you have ordered a PCR test to your home, taking the test is similar to a lateral flow test. However, you will need to follow the detailed instructions included with the test to ensure you pack it correctly and get an accurate result once you have sent it to be tested.   

If you go to a walk-in centre, pharmacy or drive through, follow the instructions you are given during your appointment. 


Sending your PCR test:

If you have ordered a PCR test to your home, you will need to send the test off to the lab. When booking your test you may be able to arrange for the test to be collected, follow the instructions provided. 

If you are sending the test to the lab via the post, you can only do this from a Royal Mail Priority Post Box. You should check where your nearest one is before taking the test. You can find your nearest priority post box here. 


Getting your test results:

When booking your appointment or ordering your PCR test you will be asked to provide contact details. You will usually get a text message or an email with your results once they are ready. You can also get your results via the NHS Covid-19 App. 

If you do not get your results within 6 days, call 119 (free from mobiles and landlines). Lines are open every day, 7am to 11pm. 119 provides support in 200 languages.

SignVideo is a free online British Sign Language interpreter service for 119.


What to do next:

Self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started, or the day you took the test if you do not have symptoms.

You may need to self-isolate for longer than 10 days if you develop symptoms while self-isolating or your symptoms do not go away. 

If you take a PCR test within 2 days of a positive lateral flow test and your PCR test is negative, you can stop self-isolating. If you take a PCR test later than this, you’ll need to self-isolate for 10 full days even if you get a negative PCR result.

You must also continue to self-isolate even with a negative PCR test if you are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace. 

You may also need to self-isolate if someone else in your household has tested positive. 

If you live in a care home or supportive living you may need to self-isolate for 14 days rather than 10. 

You may be contacted by the local council or NHS Test and Trace to help alert people you have been in close contact with. 

You could be fined if you do not self-isolate after getting a positive PCR test result.