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Detailed guide: Coronavirus (COVID-19): getting tested

Department Of Health

November 19
17:18 2020

You can get a swab test to check if you currently have coronavirus. This is part of the 5-pillar strategy for coronavirus testing. Testing is most effective within 3 days of symptoms developing.

Who can be tested

Anyone with symptoms can get a coronavirus test, whatever their age.

Register a home test kit

Once youve received a coronavirus home test kit, you must register it so that we can send your results to you.

If you are about to go to hospital

See the guidance below on testing for care home residents and workers.

Employer referral for essential workers

Employers can refer essential workers for testing if they are self-isolating because either they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms.

They can do this by uploading the names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers to the secure employer referral portal.

Referred essential workers will then receive a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for themselves (if symptomatic) or their symptomatic household member(s) at a regional testing site.

To get a login to the employer referral portal, employers of essential workers should email portalservicedesk@dhsc.gov.uk with the following information:

  • organisation name
  • nature of the organisations business
  • region
  • names (where possible) and email addresses of the 2 users who will load essential worker contact details

Once employer details have been verified, 2 login credentials will be provided for the employer referral portal.

See the list of essential workers below.

The testing process

The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, which can be done by the person themselves (self-administered) or by someone else (assisted).

The different ways you can get tested are covered below.

Test sites

Were establishing a network of drive-through and walk-through test sites.

Watch a video explaining the process for drive-through testing:

Coronavirus tests for essential workers

Home testing

Home test kits can be delivered to someones door so they can test themselves and their family without leaving the house. Home test kit availability will be initially limited, but more will become available.

If you have been delivered a home testing kit or have been given a self-test kit at a regional test site, here is a tutorial video that supports the written instructions in your pack, from Dr Amir Khan:

How to take a coronavirus self-test swab

The instructions on testing for coronavirus at home are also available in accessible formats.

Mobile testing units

Mobile testing units travel around the UK to increase access to coronavirus testing. They respond to need, travelling to test essential workers at sites including care homes, police stations and prisons.

New units are being brought into operation each day.

Satellite centres

NHS capability is being increased by providing test kits directly to satellite centres at places like hospitals that have a particularly urgent or significant need.

NHS facilities

Testing within an NHS facility such as a hospital is available for patients and some NHS workers.

Across all these testing methods, there is a network of couriers who collect the completed samples and deliver them safely to one of our laboratories. The swab samples are analysed at our labs and the result is communicated back to the individual.

We aim to return test results within 48 hours of a swab being taken, or within 72 hours for a home test.

Care homes

England

In England, all registered adult care homes can apply for coronavirus tests.

You should contact your local Health Protection Team (HPT) if:

  • you suspect your care home has a new coronavirus outbreak (one or more suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19)
  • it has been 28 days or longer since your last case and you have new cases

Your HPT will provide advice and arrange the first tests. See a graphic summarising testing for care homes (PDF, 68.4KB, 3 pages).

For testing in other situations, you should apply for testing kits following the instructions below.

Scotland

In a care home where there is one or more confirmed case of coronavirus, the local health board must offer testing to all staff and residents regardless of symptoms as part of enhanced outbreak investigations. Testing will be organised by local health board testing teams, using local and NHS Scotland laboratory capacity.

In a care home with no positive cases for 2 weeks or more, the local health board must offer testing to all staff on a weekly basis. Please follow the instructions below to access this routine testing of staff in your care home.

Wales

Existing arrangements include testing:

  • all residents and staff of care homes with ongoing cases of COVID-19 and any home reporting a new outbreak
  • larger care homes registered for 50 or more beds
  • all people being discharged from hospital to live in care homes regardless of whether or not they were admitted to hospital with COVID-19
  • all people who are being transferred between care homes and for new admissions from the community

This policy has been supplemented by a large-scale testing programme covering all residents and staff across care homes in Wales that have not reported an outbreak or any cases of coronavirus in the last 28 days. Its being followed up through a weekly rolling programme to test care home staff.

Wales policy for testing in care homes will continue to be reviewed and adapted as the scientific evidence changes

How to test care home residents and workers

You can apply for coronavirus testing kits to test the residents and/or staff of your care home. You can apply whether or not any of your residents or staff have coronavirus symptoms.

Regular testing in care homes (England)

On 6 July, we started rolling out regular testing (retesting) for care homes in England. Retesting involves care homes testing staff weekly and residents every 28 days.

Applications for retesting are now open for care homes caring for the over-65s and those with dementia. The remaining adult care homes will be able to register for retesting from 31 August.

Any specialist care homes that have not yet registered for their initial whole care home tests should still apply on the care home portal to receive their initial whole care home tests.

Care homes will need to re-register on the care home portal to apply for retesting. Applications for retesting are now open for care homes caring for the over-65s and those with dementia.

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