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This page is reviewed regularly. Last updated at 11:15 on 30th July 2020.

Testing for COVID-19

Testing plays an important part in our battle against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Here is more information about the tests that are available in the UK, how to get tested and the latest research updates on COVID-19 testing.

The antigen ‘have I got COVID-19 right now’ test

Also known as the PCR test or swab test, this test identifies whether you are currently infected. It is recommended to take the test if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. This test is widely available and free on the NHS, either as an at home sampling kit or at regional drive-through centres.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, book a test.

Test and Trace

If you or anyone you live with have any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, you should request an antigen test. This should be done within the first 5 days of any symptoms, and ideally as soon as any symptoms appear. The test involves swabbing the inside of your nose and back of your throat with a cotton bud, and can be done by yourself if you are over the age of 12.

Testing for COVID-19 will help determine whether you, anyone you live with, or anyone in your support bubble, need to self-isolate. If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service who will ask (either online or over the telephone) about where you have been recently and your recent close contacts. This may be by email, text, or telephone.

You may also want to inform anyone that you have been in close contact with over the past 48 hours that you might have COVID-19. Close contact may include the following:

  • Being less than one metre away and face to face
  • Being within one to two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes
  • Being together in your home for long periods of time

While recent contacts do not need to self-isolate unless instructed by the NHS Test and Trace service, they should follow the social distancing guidance closely and pay particular attention to good hand and respiratory hygiene.


If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace

If you have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and informed that you were in contact with someone with COVID-19, you should self-isolate for 14 days from when you were in contact with the person. The rest of your household and your support bubble do not need to self-isolate for this period unless you develop symptoms.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you and your household (as well as your support bubble) should self-isolate until you are tested and receive your test result. If you test negative, you should continue self-isolating for 14 days after you had contact since you still may develop symptoms. Your household and support bubble do not need to self-isolate. If you test positive, self-isolate for 10 days after your symptoms appear unless you still have symptoms other than cough or loss of sense of smell/taste. Your household and your support bubble should self-isolate for 14 days from the same date. If any of these members develop symptoms, they should also self-isolate for at least 10 days from when their symptoms began. If they are tested and receive a negative result, they should continue self-isolating for the original 14 days.

Research updates on testing

There is still much that is unknown about COVID-19 and doctors and scientists are working hard to discover as much as they can as quickly as possible. Testing both for active infection with antigen swab tests as well as previous infection with antibody blood tests will play a very important role in our understanding of this disease.

Here we will keep you posted on the latest information and research on COVID-19 testing.