This page is reviewed regularly. Last updated at 12:10 on 16th August 2021.

Testing for COVID-19

Testing plays an important part in our battle against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Here is more information about the testing available in the UK and how to get tested. Please note, Babylon does not offer private COVID-19 tests.

Test options available for COVID-19

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

There are two types of tests that may be used to check if you have COVID-19 - PCR tests and rapid lateral flow tests.

PCR tests (or swab tests) are used when you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and are widely available by the NHS, either as an at home sampling kit or at a regional drive-through or walk-through centre. You can also get a PCR test if you don’t have symptoms but you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Rapid lateral flow tests are used if you do not have symptoms. The test usually takes about ten minutes, and results of these tests may be provided in as little as 30 minutes. Your test results will need to be reported online or on the phone if you do the test at home. If you receive a positive lateral flow test, you should have it confirmed with a PCR test. This can be booked here.

For more details on the types of tests available and their results, please find more information here.

Test and Trace

If you or anyone you live with have any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, you should request a PCR test. You need to be tested within the first 5 days of having symptoms in Scotland and Wales, and if you live in Scotland you should still book a test after 5 days if advised to do so. You need to be tested within the first 8 days of having symptoms in England and Northern Ireland. 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 or by your council (by e-mail, text or phone) and may be asked about your name, date of birth, postcode, where you have been recently and your recent close contacts.

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 less than one metre away and not face to face for more than one minute
  • Being within one to two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes
  • Being together in your home for long periods of time
  • Travelling together in a car or other small vehicle, or close to someone on a plane

While recent contacts do not need to self-isolate unless instructed by the NHS Test and Trace service or the NHS COVID-19 app, 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 or the NHS COVID-19 app

If you have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app and informed that you were in contact with someone with COVID-19, you should self-isolate from the day you were last in contact with the person and the next 10 full days. In certain circumstances you may not need to self-isolate following contact with someone who has COVID-19, please see the UK Gov webpage for more details. 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, unless they have a valid reason to be exempt from self-isolation as mentioned above. If you test negative, you should continue self-isolating from the day you were last in contact and the next 10 full days since you still may develop symptoms. Your household and support bubble do not need to self-isolate. If you test positive, self-isolate from the day your symptoms appeared and for the next 10 full days unless you still have symptoms other than cough or loss of sense of smell/taste. You may need to self-isolate for 14 days instead of 10 days if you live in supported living or a care home. Your household and your support bubble should self-isolate from the same date and for the next 10 full days. Your household are now eligible for a free test if you have symptoms or have tested positive, even if they do not have symptoms. If any of these members develop symptoms, they should also self-isolate from when their symptoms began and at least 10 full days. If they are tested and receive a negative result, they should continue self-isolating for the original 10 days.