COVID-19: Getting a Test

Get a free NHS test today to check if you have coronavirus

This information is correct when published on 22 February 2021.  For latest updates please go to the NHS website.

You can have a test (swab test) to check if you have coronavirus (COVID-19) now. You can choose to take the test:

  • at a test site near you today
  • with a home test kit

This service is for people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Information: There is another test, the antibody test to check if you’ve had coronavirus. This is available on the NHS for some people.

Who can get a test

You can get a free NHS coronavirus test if you have at least one of these three coronavirus symptoms:

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

You can get a test for up to three people you live with if they have these symptoms. Do not get tests for people you live with who do not have these symptoms.

Symptoms in babies and children

Symptoms in babies and young children can also be due to other viral illnesses like common cold, flu or bronchiolitis. Click on this parent information leaflet to find out more about symptoms, and when to get a PCR test.

If you’re asked to get a test

You can also get a test if:

  • You have been asked to get a test by your local council
  • You’re taking part in a government pilot project
  • You’ve been asked to get a test to confirm a positive result, or you’ve received an unclear result and have been told to get a second test

You may need to get a test if you’re due to have a surgery or procedure in hospital. Your hospital will arrange this for you if you need one.


Only get a test if you have coronavirus symptoms or have been asked to get tested.

Do not use this service to get a test in order to travel to another country. You can pay for a private test.

This will help make sure people who need a test can get one.

When to get a test

If you have symptoms, get a test as soon as possible. You need to get the test done in the first 8 days of having symptoms.

Book a visit to a test site to have the test today, test sites are open seven days a week. Or order a home test kit if you cannot get to a test site.

On days 1 to 7 of your symptoms, you can get tested at a site or at home. If you’re ordering a home test kit on day 7, do it by 3pm.

On day 8, you need to go to a test site. It’s too late to order a home test kit.

If you are not able to get a test, you and anyone you live with must stay at home (self-isolate). Anyone in your support bubble must also self-isolate.

Getting your test

This service is sometimes very busy. If you cannot get a test now, or the location or time are not convenient, try again in a few hours.

Start now on the GOV.UK website or call 119 to get a test if you have problems using the internet.

Information: If no tests are available online, do not call the helpline to get a test. No extra tests are available through the helpline.

Stay at home if you have symptoms

If you are getting a test because you have symptoms, you and anyone you live with must stay at home until you get your result.

Anyone in your support bubble must also stay at home.

What the test involves

The test 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 (if you are aged 12 or over) or someone can do it for you. Parents or guardians have to swab test children aged 11 or under.

Getting a test for someone else

If other people you live with have symptoms, you can order tests for up to 3 of them.

If you’re applying for a test for someone else, and the person is aged 13 or over, check they’re happy for you to get a test for them.

Urgent advice: If you need medical advice about your symptoms, go to:

Call 999 if you feel very unwell or think there’s something seriously wrong.

Need help with getting a test?

If you’re having problems getting a test, see answers to common questions about asking for a coronavirus test.