You can get a throat and nose swab test for whether you currently have coronavirus. This is part of the governments’ 5-pillar strategy for coronavirus testing. Testing is most effective within 3 days of symptoms developing.

  Who can be tested?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), you can ask for a test to check if you have the virus. This is called an antigen test.

There is another type of test (antibody test) that checks if you’ve already had the virus. This test is not available yet.

You can ask for a test:

  • for yourself, if you have coronavirus symptoms now (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • for someone you live with, if they have coronavirus symptoms

When to ask for a test

You need to have the test in the first 5 days of having symptoms.

It’s best to ask for the test in the first 3 days, as it may take a day or two to arrange.

What the test involves

The test usually 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 or someone can do it for you.

  How to arrange a test

If you meet the criteria, you can select a regional testing site drive-through appointment or home test kit. 

Employer referral

The employer referral portal allows employers to refer essential workers who are self-isolating either because they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms, for testing.

For most employees, only symptomatic people in the household can be tested. If the employee works in social care, however, the employee can be tested whether symptomatic or asymptomatic.

It is a secure portal for employers to use to upload the full list of names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers.

If referred through this portal, essential workers will 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.

In order to obtain a login, employers of essential workers should email portalservicedesk@dhsc.gov.uk with:

  • organisation name
  • nature of the organisation’s 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 issued for the employer referral portal.

  Apply for a coronavirus test