Getting a test for coronavirus

Anyone of any age who has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can get a free test using the Government’s national testing portal (opens in a new window). You should only get this test if you have coronavirus symptoms or have been asked to get tested by a doctor or a public health professional or by your local council.

You may also be offered a test if you do not have symptoms. These tests are not booked via the national testing portal, but may be offered by your local council, your employer, or your place of study.


What are the tests for coronavirus?

The testing programme across Lancashire and South Cumbria, and across the UK, consists largely of two main types of viral detection test; the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for people with symptoms of coronavirus and the rapid lateral flow test (LFT) for people without symptoms of coronavirus. There is also an antibody test, but this is not universally available.

The PCR/swab test requires two separate viral swabs, a nose swab and a throat swab. Anyone who has coronavirus symptoms can ask for a test. If the test is to be successful you need to get it done in the first 8 days of having symptoms. Do not wait – you should ask for the test as soon as you have symptoms (opens in a new window)

Anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive can now get a PCR test during their 10-day isolation period, whether or not they have symptoms. However, anyone who has been fully vaccinated (two jabs + 14 days) does not need to self-isolate if identified as a close contact but is recommended to get a PCR test (health and social care staff and some other essential workers should get a PCR test if fully vaccinated and intending to return to work). You should also get a PCR test if you've been asked to do so by a local council or contact tracers, or by a GP or other health professional, or needing to confirm a positive rapid lateral flow test.

Lateral Flow Tests (LFT’s) for people without symptoms (opens in a new window) provide more rapid results, usually in half an hour, and are available to everyone in England. Rapid LFT testing can be accessed in several ways, including community and workplace testing programmes (the NHS, Social Care and schools have specific testing programmes and other workplaces can set up their own, self-funded programmes).  

LFT tests can also be ordered via a home ordering or Pharmacy Collect service, both available here, which allows people to order LFT tests online or via their local pharmacy. LFT testing can also be accessed through local PCR test sites during specific test collection times.

LFT community testing sites are overseen by local authorities but have now been largely replaced by the universal rapid lateral flow testing programme. A few local authority test sites still remain, usually in libraries. More information can be found about these tests and any test sites that remain on these County and Borough Council websites:

The antibody test tells you if you have had coronavirus in the past. This is a blood test which is now widely available to anyone who has had a positive PCR test.  These are accessed via the national online portal and are undertaken at home using a finger-prick, antibody test kit sent through the post.

Where do I go for my test?

Testing for people with the symptoms of coronavirus (the PCR/swab test) is a legal requirement and is only available with an appointment. Once an appointment is made, (by using the national testing portal booking system [opens in a new window - for more information follow the Viral Detection Test tab below), people will receive the full addresses and information on the testing sites available. Anyone arriving at these test sites without an appointment will be turned away.

Testing for people without symptoms of coronavirus (the lateral flow test) is voluntary and may not require an appointment, but information on where and when this is happening will be made available locally.

Alternatively, home-test kits can be requested, and these will be delivered by post.

Please do not go to your local hospital, GP Practice, or pharmacy to get a PCR test if you have symptoms of coronavirus.

The location of PCR/swab test sites can be found under the Viral Detection Test tab below.

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