Find out which coronavirus (COVID-19) test you should get
There are different tests you can get to check if you have coronavirus.
The two most commonly used are:
- PCR tests (mainly for people with symptoms)
- rapid lateral flow test (only for people with no symptoms)
Both are free. You need to work out which test to get.
When to get a PCR test
Get a PCR test as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
You may also be able to get a PCR test if:
- you’ve been asked to by a local council
- you’re taking part in a government pilot project
- you’ve been told to get one to confirm a positive result
- you’ve received an unclear result and were told to get tested again
- you’re in the National Tactical Response Group
You can also order a PCR test for someone else if they meet the conditions to get one.
Care home residents or staff
You can order PCR testing kits for a care home. Staff and residents can still get PCR tests even if they do not have symptoms.
Before going into hospital
You may need to get tested if you’re due to have surgery or a procedure.
The hospital will arrange this for you. Contact your hospital department if you have any questions.
How to get regular rapid tests
Anyone who does not have symptoms can now get regular rapid lateral flow tests to check for coronavirus.
Go to a test site
You can go to a rapid lateral flow test site to get a rapid test.
If you go to a test site:
- you may need an appointment, so check before you go
- a trained helper might be able to help you do the test
- you'll get a text or email with the result when it's ready
Find your nearest rapid lateral flow test site
Get a test to do at home
You can get rapid tests to do at home.
You can collect up to 2 packs of 7 tests from a local pharmacy or test site:
You can get a pack of 7 tests sent to your home. Order rapid lateral flow home test kits on GOV.UK
If you do tests at home, you'll need to report your results online or on the phone
Why 2 tests are used
PCR tests are mainly used to confirm coronavirus cases in people with symptoms who are already self-isolating.
They can still find positive cases even if someone has stopped being infectious.
Rapid lateral flow tests
Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms but can still infect others. Rapid lateral flow tests help to find these cases.
If someone can no longer infect others, rapid lateral flow tests are less likely to return a positive result.
How tests work and how long results take
A PCR test works by swabbing the inside of your nose and the back of your throat. The sample is sent to a lab and you usually get a result in a couple of days.
A rapid lateral flow test works by swabbing your throat near your tonsils and nose. You get a result in 30 minutes.
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