Testing is our greatest weapon in the fight against coronavirus. As the pandemic has continued, testing has become more available, and it is now possible to receive one by post.

When should I get a test?

It’s advised to get a coronavirus test if you experience any of the following symptoms:

• a high temperature.

• a new, continuous cough.

• a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Your employer may also ask for you to get tested, but these tests should be provided by the organisation you're working for, and not through the government's test and trace scheme.

How do I get a test?

You can order a coronavirus test online through the government website. The form asks whether you have symptoms as well as other information like when your symptoms began.

You can also visit one of the government’s in-person testing sites to take a test, however this is only for people who do not have symptoms. Check your local council website to see where your nearest testing site is.  

What does the test involve?

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is currently the most common form of testing in the UK. It involves taking a swab from your nose and your mouth.

In the video below the lovely Dr Amir Khan shows how you should administer your test at home.

Is there anything I should worry about?

In short: no. Testing is 100% safe, and very accurate. Knowing your coronavirus status lets you keep yourself and those around you safe. It’s always better to know.

How fast will I get my results?

Testing facilities aim to provide results within 48-72 hours, but given pressures on the system and hiccups in the test and trace system, this can take longer.

You can also get a test for someone you live with if they have symptoms.

The test needs to be done in the first five days of having symptoms, so don’t wait to get one if you’re experiencing any of the above. 

Update: recent research suggests that fewer people contracting the new UK variant of COVID-19 are experiencing a loss of taste and smell, so don’t assume you don’t have the virus if this symptom is absent.

What do I do if the result is positive?

If your test result comes back positive you are required to immediately self isolate inside your house, or safe space. You should also try to remain as insulated from those you live with as is practical. This rule is not absolute: people have childcare responsibilities or require visits from a support worker to maintain their health and that of others.

Here is guidance from the NHS website:

“A positive result means it's likely you had coronavirus when the test was done.

You and anyone you live with must self-isolate immediately and keep self-isolating until you're no longer infectious.

The self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day you had the test, if you do not have symptoms) and the next 10 full days. Find out how long to self-isolate

You may be contacted by the NHS or your local council and asked for information to help the NHS alert your close contacts.”