COVID-19: Testing & Tracing
The service in England to get a free PCR test or lateral flow tests has now ended for the majority of people. You can find out if you are eligible below.
If you need to do a COVID-19 test, you must now pay for one. You can purchase tests at some pharmacies or retailers, in person or online.
Please do not call 119, 111 or 999 to get a test, you will not be able to get one this way.
FREE Rapid Lateral Flow Tests
You are eligible for a Rapid Lateral Flow Test if:
- You have a health condition which means you're eligible for COVID-19 treatments
- Your doctor or healthcare professional has told you to get a test because you're being admitted to hospital
- You've spoken to your GP or healthcare professional recently and they asked you to get a test
You can also order tests if:
- You work for the NHS in a patient-facing role, and you're taking part in the NHS staff testing programme
- You work for an NHS-commissioned independent healthcare provider in a patient-facing role looking after NHS patients
- You work for the NHS and you have one of the 3 main COVID-19 symptoms or you have recently tested positive and need to take a test to return to work
- You work in the adult social care sector as a personal assistant, a Shared Lives carer, a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspector or a social worker
You will receive the result from your test in 30 minutes. A device similar to a pregnancy test is used and does not need to be sent to a lab. You can order a pack of 7 rapid lateral flow tests to be sent to your home by following this link.
If you are returning to the UK from abroad, you are not eligible for a free COVID-19 test. You must book a test from a private provider. You can find out more about the private providers by clicking here.
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.
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
- You'll be asked to sign in to the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing website.
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.
The NHS Test and Trace service WILL NOT:
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
- Trace - Get alerted if you've been near other app users
- Alert - Know your level of COVID-19 risk in your postcode district
- Check-in - Scan the official NHS QR code at venues you enter
- Symptoms - Check your symptoms and see if you need to order a free test
- Test - Get help with booking a test and receiving your result
- Isolate - Keep track of your self-isolation countdown and access relevant advice
Download the NHS COVID-19 app
- GOV.UK: Guidance for taking swab samples
- GOV.UK: Overview of the NHS test and trace service
- NHS.UK: COVID-19 app support
Last updated: 11/04/22
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