Testing people with coronavirus symptoms and then tracing their contacts is vital to reducing the spread of the virus.
But how long does a Covid-19 test take - and when will you get the results?
Here’s what you should know.
Who can get a test?
Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a test, no matter their age.
These symptoms are:
- A high temperature
- A new, continuous cough,
- A loss or change in sense of smell or taste
When should I get a test?
If you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms, you need to get a test done as soon as possible - within five days of having symptoms.
On days one to four of having symptoms, you can get tested at a testing site, or at home. If you’re ordering a home test kit on your fourth day of symptoms, you need to do so before 3pm.
If you’re on day five of symptoms, you need to go to a test site to get testing - it’s too late to order a home test kit at this point unfortunately.
You can also get a test for someone you live with if they have symptoms, however, do not get tests for people you live with who do not have symptoms.
If other people you live with have symptoms, you can order tests for up to three of them.
How do I get a test?
Depending on how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms, you can get a test done at a testing site or at home using a home testing kit.
You can book yourself a test at a test site or order a home test by using the online government service.
If you have issues using the online service, you can get in touch with the helpline to ask for help. You should not phone the helpline if there are no tests available as they will not be able to offer you a test - the helpline is only for those having issues using the website.
The number is 119 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 0300 303 2713 in Scotland.
The lines are open between 7am and 11pm.
What does the test involve - and how long does it take?
During the test, the aim is to get a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a cotton bud.
The test only takes a few minutes to complete.
You can do the swab yourself, or you can have someone else do it for you if you prefer.
Parents and guardians have to swab test children aged 11 or under.
For guidance, the government has issued a video of a young woman doing the test.
There is also an antibody test to check whether you’ve already had coronavirus, but this is a blood test and is not yet widely available.
The antibody test is currently only offered to NHS and care staff, as well as some hospital patients and care home residents.
How long does it take to get test results?
The government website states that it aims to return test results within 48 hours of the swab being taken.
For a home test, the aim is to have results within 72 hours.
Once you’ve had the test done, you and anyone you live with must self isolate until you get your results.
You’ll get a text or an email when your results are ready.
There are three types of results you could get:
- Negative, which means you don’t have coronavirus
- Positive, which means you do have coronavirus
- Unclear, void, borderline or inconclusive, meaning that it’s not possible to say whether you had coronavirus at the time of the test
If you receive an inconclusive test, you should arrange to get another coronavirus test done as quickly as possible while continuing to self isolate.
A version of this article appeared on our sister site the Yorkshire Post