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, now consists of two different types of test – the viral detection test (of which there are now a range of different tests), and the antibody test.
The most widely available viral detection test, which tells you whether you currently have coronavirus or not, is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab test, used at most test sites and in home-test kits. 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).
From 12 April 2021 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. It is also possible to get a PCR test if you don’t have symptoms but you've been asked to get a test by a local council or contact tracers, or by a GP or other health professional, or if you're getting a confirmatory PCR test.
Other viral detection tests have now been introduced, although most of these are used to test people without the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Tests using Lateral Flow Devices (LFD’s) for people without symptoms (opens in a new window) provide more rapid results and were originally introduced in NHS Trusts. Now rapid LFD tests are being used for the regular testing of patient-facing staff across much of the NHS and in social care, including care homes, in schools and colleges and in the Community and Workplace Testing programmes, aimed at all workers and members of the public who are most at risk from the virus.
From 9 April 2021 universal asymptomatic testing will be available in England, allowing everyone without the symptoms of coronavirus to access rapid LFD testing twice a week. Rapid LFD testing can be accessed in several ways, including through a home ordering or Pharmacy Collect service, both available here, which allows people to order LFD tests online or via their local pharmacy, and through the community and workplace testing programmes mentioned above. LFD testing can also be accessed through local PCR test sites during specific test collection time windows.
The Community Testing Programme (opens in a new window) is overseen by local authorities and following the latest government directive is reaching out to businesses and employees, including essential workers, who cannot work from home and are therefore, at greater risk of catching the virus and/or passing it on to others. Although this testing is voluntary (unlike the PCR swab test for people with symptoms), people who have to leave home to go to work are being encouraged to take the lateral flow tests at least once a week. Workplace testing has also been introduced for all workplaces, who can order LFD tests directly for their workforce, regardless of their size.
Within Lancashire and South Cumbria, Lancashire County Council (opens in a new window), Cumbria County Coucil (opens in a new window), Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council (opens in a new window) and Blackpool Borough Council (opens in a new window) provide guidance and information on these tests and the test sites being used to test people without symptoms, which do not normally require an appointment.
The antibody test tells you if you have had coronavirus in the past. Studies are being conducted to determine if the presence of the antibody infers ongoing immunity. The antibody test only has limited availability currently, although this may expand in the future. This is a blood test that requires 10ml of blood and is usually taken by a medical professional, although some limited opportunities for antibody testing at home have been made available. Finger prick blood tests are not currently offered.
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.