There are different tests you can get to check if you have coronavirus (COVID-19). The test you need depends on why you’re getting tested.
The 2 main tests are:
- PCR tests – mainly for people with symptoms, they’re sent to a lab to be checked
- rapid lateral flow tests – only for people who do not have symptoms, they give a quick result using a device similar to a pregnancy test
Both tests are free.
Anyone can now get regular rapid lateral flow tests without having symptoms.
About 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms but can still infect others. You should do a rapid test twice a week (every 3 to 4 days) to check if you have the virus.
If people test positive and self-isolate, it helps stop the virus spreading.
Even if you’re vaccinated, there’s still a chance you can pass COVID-19 on, so you should keep getting tested regularly.
Other reasons to get tested
Confirming a previous test result
Get a PCR test as soon as possible if:
- you’ve done a rapid lateral flow test and had a positive result or your test sample could not be read (void result)
- you had a PCR test and your test sample could not be read
If you have symptoms, stay at home until you get the result of the 2nd test.
If you’re self-isolating because you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive
If you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 you can get a PCR test, whether or not you have symptoms.
What does close contact mean?
Getting tested can tell you if you had COVID-19 at the time you did the test.
If you test positive, you can help the NHS contact people who may have caught the virus from you. They can then self-isolate and avoid passing it on to others.
You must continue to self-isolate for the 10 full days even if your result is negative, as you could still become infectious.