COVID-19: Testing & Tracing

COVID-19 testing

You can get a throat and nose swab test for whether you currently have COVID-19.  

This is part of the government's 5-pillar testing strategy. Testing is most effective within 3 days of symptoms developing.

You can choose to take the test:

  1.  At a test site near you today and get your result tomorrow
  2.  With a home test kit

Who can ask for a test?

You can ask for a test:

  • for yourself - if you have COVID-19 symptoms (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • for someone you live with - if they have COVID-19 symptoms
  • if you live in England and have been told to have a test before you go into hospital, for example, for surgery
  • if your local council asks you to get a test
  • if you’re taking part in a government pilot project

This service is for people in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

In England and Wales, you can ask for a test for a child who lives with you, whatever their age. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, you can only get a test for your child if they are aged 5 or over.

If you're asking for a test for someone else, and the person is aged 13 or over, check they're happy for you to ask for a test for them.

When to ask for a test

You need to get the test done in the first 5 days of having symptoms. DO NOT wait if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

Book a visit to a test site to have the test today. Or order a home test kit if you cannot get to a test site.

  • On days 1 to 4 of your symptoms, you can get tested at a site or at home. If you're ordering a home test kit on day 4, do it by 3pm.
  • On day 5, you need to go to a test site. It's too late to order a home test kit.

If you are not able to get a test in the first 5 days of having symptoms, you and anyone you live with must self-isolate.  Anyone in your support bubble must also self-isolate.

What does the test involve?

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.

How do I ask for a test?

Help with asking for a test

To get help with asking for a test, call 119 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland, from 7am till 11pm.

If you're having problems getting a test, please see answers to common questions about asking for a test.

NHS Test & Trace

In England, you’ll be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service if you test positive for COVID-19.

You'll be asked where you've been recently and who you've been in close contact with.

This will help the NHS contact anyone who may have caught the virus from you.

How you'll be contacted

You'll be contacted by email, text or phone.

  • Text messages will come from the NHS. Calls will come from 0300 0135 000.

Children under 18 will be contacted by phone wherever possible and asked for their parent or guardian's permission to continue the call.

What you'll be asked to do

On the contact tracing website, you'll be asked for information including:

  • your name, date of birth and postcode
  • if you live with other people
  • any places you've been recently, such as a workplace or school
  • names and contact details of any people you were in close contact with in the 48 hours before your symptoms started (if you know these details)

If you cannot use the contact tracing website, you'll be asked for this information over the phone.

Important

The NHS Test and Trace service WILL NOT:

  • ask for bank details or payments
  • ask for details of any other accounts, such as social media
  • ask you to set up a password or PIN number over the phone
  • ask you to call a premium rate number, such as those starting 09 or 087

How your information will be used

All information you provide to the NHS Test and Trace service is confidential.

No one who is contacted will be told your identity.

Anyone you've been in close contact with will be told to stay at home (self-isolate) for 14 days. This is because it can take up to 14 days for COVID-19 symptoms to appear.

NHS COVID-19 app

Protect your loved ones. Download the app.

The free NHS COVID-19 app is a vital part of the NHS Test and Trace service in England, and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service. It is the fastest way to see if you're at risk from COVID-19. The faster you know, the quicker you can alert and protect your loved ones and community!

The app has a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts and venue check-in. It uses proven technology from Apple and Google, designed to protect every user’s privacy. Read more about the NHS COVID-19 app protects your data and privacy.

Video: Introducing the NHS COVID-19 app

What the NHS COVID-19 app does

  1. Trace - Get alerted if you've been near other app users
  2. Alert - Know your level of COVID-19 risk in your postcode district
  3. Check-in -  Scan the official NHS QR code at venues you enter  
  4. Symptoms - Check your symptoms and see if you need to order a free test
  5. Test - Get help with booking a test and receiving your result
  6. Isolate - Keep track of your self-isolation countdown and access relevant advice

Download the NHS COVID-19 app

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Further information

Last updated: October 7, 2020

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