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Get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19)

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 – these are usually for people who do not have symptoms, they give a quick result using a device similar to a pregnancy test

Both tests are free.

Reasons to get tested

Important: Testing guidance in England has changed

Most people without COVID-19 symptoms do not need to get lateral flow tests.

Check advice in other parts of the UK:

If you have symptoms of COVID-19

Get a PCR test as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms, even if mild:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people. Get advice about staying at home and avoiding contact with others

If you're eligible for new COVID-19 treatments

If you're eligible for new COVID-19 treatments you should be sent a PCR test to use if you have symptoms. If you do not have a PCR test at home, you can use a rapid lateral flow test.

Find out how to get a test to check if you're eligible for new COVID-19 treatments

If you need a follow-up PCR test

If you get a positive lateral flow test result, you do not usually need to get a follow-up PCR test. You should only get a follow-up PCR test if:

If you live with or have been in contact with someone who's tested positive

You're no longer advised to do daily rapid lateral flow tests after you've come into contact with someone who has COVID-19.

If you live with or have stayed overnight in the household of someone who has the virus, you should follow the advice for close contacts of people with COVID-19 on GOV.UK.

If you've had contact with someone with COVID-19 but do not live with them or have not stayed overnight in their household, follow the guidance on how to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 on GOV.UK.

Going into hospital

You may need to get tested if you're due to have surgery or a procedure.

The hospital will arrange this for you. Contact your hospital department if you have any questions.

Travelling abroad from England or returning

You may need to take a test before, during and after your trip.

Check the guidance on:

You’ll need to pay for a test yourself. You cannot use a free test from the NHS.

Find out about private providers of COVID-19 testing on GOV.UK

Care home residents and staff

Care home managers can get tests for staff and residents even if they do not have symptoms.

Find out about testing guidance in care homes on GOV.UK

Page last reviewed: 3 March 2022
Next review due: 17 March 2022