Ask for a test to check if you have coronavirus
If you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), you can ask for a test to check if you have the virus. This is called an antigen test.
There is another type of test (antibody test) that checks if you've already had the virus. This test is not widely available yet. You can find out about antibody testing on GOV.UK.
If you need medical advice about your symptoms:
- England: NHS 111 online coronavirus service
- Scotland: NHS inform
- Wales: NHS Direct Wales
- Northern Ireland: get advice from a GP or GP out-of-hours service
Who can ask for a test
You can ask for a test:
- for yourself, if you have coronavirus symptoms now (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
- for someone you live with, if they have coronavirus symptoms
This service is for people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The tests are not suitable for children under 5 years old.
If you're asking for a test for someone else and the person is aged 13 or over, check they're happy for you to ask for a test for them.
Please help the NHS and only ask for a test if you or someone you live with has symptoms now.
When to ask for a test
You need to have the test in the first 5 days of having symptoms.
It's best to ask for the test in the first 3 days, as it may take a day or two to arrange.
What the test involves
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 or someone can do it for you.
Will I get a test?
There is very high demand for tests at the moment.
People in hospital and essential workers, including NHS and social care staff, are getting priority.
Even if you are successful in requesting a test, we cannot guarantee you will get one. It depends on how many tests are available each day in different parts of the country.
How do I ask for a test?
You can ask for a test online.
We'll ask you:
- how you want to get the test – you may be able to choose between driving to a regional testing site or getting a home test kit
- for details such as your name, mobile phone number and address
- are an essential worker, including NHS or social care staff
- are applying for tests for the residents and staff of your care home
- have a verification code from your employer
Help with asking for a test
If you're having problems getting a test, see answers to common questions about asking for a coronavirus test.
Apply for a coronavirus test if you're an essential worker:
Use this service to apply for a coronavirus (COVID-19) test if you have symptoms and you:
- are an essential worker
- live with an essential worker
There’s a different way to ask for a test if you’re not an essential worker or do not live with one (on the NHS website).
Coronavirus symptoms are:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a loss of or change to your sense of smell or taste
This test can tell you if you have coronavirus at the time the swab sample is taken. The test to tell if you’ve ever had coronavirus (‘antibody test’) is not available yet.
When to apply for a test
Apply within the first 3 days of having symptoms. The test is best taken within 5 days of symptoms starting.
You might not get a test if you apply - it depends how many tests are available in your area.
Applying for a test on behalf of someone else
If you’re applying for someone else and they’re aged 13 and over, you must check that they are happy for you to apply for them.
What the test involves
You’ll usually have the option of taking the test at home or at a drive-through testing site.
The test involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud.
See the NHS 111 online coronavirus service for advice about dealing with the symptoms of coronavirus.
Apply for coronavirus tests for a care home:
Apply for coronavirus testing kits to test the residents and staff of your care home.
This testing is currently only available in England.
You can apply whether or not any of your residents or staff have coronavirus symptoms.
You may need to contact your local health protection team (HPT) - for example, to let them know about a suspected new outbreak. Read the guidance on coronavirus testing in care homes to find out when to contact them.
At the moment, you can only get tests if your care home looks after older people or people with dementia.
Who can make the application
To apply, you need to be the care home manager who’s registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
You can also apply if you’re a Local Director of Public Health or one of their representatives.
What you need to apply
- the care home’s CQC location ID
- total number of residents, including number of residents with coronavirus symptoms
- total number of staff, including agency staff
- your contact details
What happens next
When you’ve applied, you’ll get an email telling you when the tests will be delivered.
What the test involves
The test involves taking a swab of the inside of your resident’s or staff member’s nose and the back of their throat, using a long cotton bud.
You can read guidance on how to do the tests.
This test only tells you if you have coronavirus at the time of taking the test. It doesn’t tell you if you’ve ever had coronavirus in the past.
Book a drive-through test
You can now have a coronavirus (COVID-19) test.
The test is only for people who have symptoms of coronavirus – whether that’s you, or someone you live with. It involves taking a swab sample from your nose and throat.
While you wait for your results, you (and anyone you live with) must continue to self-isolate. Read NHS advice about how long to self-isolate.
If your test result turns out to be negative, you can safely return to work, as long as:
- you are well enough
- you have not had a high temperature for 48 hours
- anyone you live with also tests negative
If you test positive, or someone you live with tests positive, you cannot return to work. You’ll need to continue to self-isolate.
You need to get the test done in the first 5 days of having symptoms. It's best to ask for the test in the first 3 days as it may take a day or two to arrange.
If your condition gets worse, or you do not get better after 7 days, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online. For a medical emergency, dial 999.
Call 111 if you're worried about a baby or child. If they seem very unwell, are getting worse, or you think there's something seriously wrong, call 999. Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts. Get more advice about coronavirus in children.
You’ll have the test at a drive-through test site. This means you’ll need to drive there (someone you live with can drive you, if necessary).
If you live with other people who also have coronavirus symptoms, they should join you for testing. You'll need to include their details on this form.
Check if people you live with can book a test
If people you live with have symptoms, they can be registered for testing. But you can only include a maximum of 3 other people for testing.
They must all:
- be aged 5 and over
- arrive in the same vehicle
- sit next to a window in the vehicle
What happens at the test site
You can use a car or a small van to drive to the test site (motorcycles are not suitable).
You’ll stay in your vehicle during your visit.
Some test sites offer a choice: either an assistant can do the swab test for you, or you can choose to do it yourself (instructions will be given).
In other sites, there will only be one way to have the test.
You’ll receive your test results by text message. Most people get their results within 48 hours, but it could take up to 5 days.
What you need to complete this form
To complete this form to book your visit, you’ll need:
- your invitation code – it’s in the text message we sent you
- your email address
- your mobile phone number
- the registration number of the vehicle you’ll use to visit the test site
- the name, email address and mobile number of any other people you live with who will be tested
How we use your data
To find out how we use your personal data when you register for a coronavirus test, read the coronavirus privacy note.