How to get tested for coronavirus

Testing is a key pillar of the Government's strategy to protect the NHS and save lives. Find out how to get tested.
covid test

What is a Covid-test?

There are different tests you can get to check if you have coronavirus (COVID-19). The test you need depends on why you're getting tested.

The 2 main tests are:

  • PCR tests – mainly for people with symptoms, they're sent to a lab to be checked
  • rapid lateral flow tests – only for people who do not have symptoms, they give a quick result using a device similar to a pregnancy test

Both tests are free. However from 11 January in England, people who receive positive lateral flow device (LFD) test results for coronavirus (COVID-19) will be required to self-isolate immediately and won’t be required to take a confirmatory PCR test

If you have symptoms of COVID-19

Get a Covid test as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms, even if mild:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Stay at home until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test. Follow this link to see if people you live with need to self-isolate

Click to order a free test

You can also pick up rapid lateral flow test from a community collection point or pharmacy near you.

What the test involves

The test usually involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud.

You can do the swab yourself (if you are aged 12 or over) or someone can do it for you. Children aged 11 or under cannot do the swab themselves. Their parent or guardian will have to swab test them.

If you get a home test kit, you will need to do the test and return the kit in the next 48 hours. You will be told how to do this. 

When to take a PCR test?

LFD tests can be taken by people at home (self-reported tests) or under the supervision of a trained operator who processes the test, reads, and reports the result (assisted tests). LFD tests are mainly used in people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. If you take an LFD test and the result is positive, you should report the result and follow this guidance. You do not need to take a follow-up PCR test, unless:

  • you wish to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment – to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment, you must have tested positive for COVID-19 following a PCR test or an assisted LFD test
  • you have received an email or letter from the NHS because of a health condition that means you may be suitable for new COVID-19 treatments – if this applies to you and you develop any COVID-19 symptoms, you should use the PCR test kit that was sent to you in the post for this purpose; if you have not received a PCR test kit you can arrange to have a PCR test
  • you are taking LFD tests as part of research or surveillance programmes, and the programme asks you to take a follow-up PCR test
  • you have a positive day 2 LFD test result after you arrive in England
How to take a coronavirus self-test swab

Sources of information

If you have any  questions or concerns contact us by the details below and we will work to find you an answer.

020 8099 5335

Looking for further information about coronavirus?

We have brought together the latest information about coronavirus including how you can get involved and help your community, and how to help your wellbeing during these uncertain times. 

Find out more