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NHS Covid test: How to get a free test to check if you have coronavirus

PEOPLE across the country are dashing to get coronavirus tests as case numbers continue to rise across the UK.

Around 200,000 Covid tests a day are being completed at the moment, but there is capacity for more than 300,000.

⚠ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

PA:Press Association
There are two ways that you can get a free NHS test – at a testing site or in the post [/caption]

The NHS states that you should only get a test if you are experiencing known symptoms of the virus.

The main symptoms of the virus include a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell.

Experts have previously warned that symptoms could differ in kids, who are likely to experience a loss of appetite and fatigue.

The NHS states that you can have a swab test at a site near you or order a home test if you have symptoms.

You can also get a test if someone you live with has symptoms or if you have been asked to get a test by a medical professional prior to receiving treatment at hospital.

Local councils can also ask you to get tested and you may also be asked to get a test if you are taking part in a government pilot project.

How to get the test

The NHS states that you should aim to get a test as soon as possible if you are experiencing symptoms, and that you need to get a test within the first five days.

To get a test you can book a visit to a test site.

You can book this through the GOV.UK site.

If you have issues using the internet you can call 119 to get a test.

People using the internet will need to fill out a form which will ask for your full name and then you will also be asked if you have a mobile number where you are able to receive your results – so double check you have put this in correctly.

If you don’t have a mobile number then you will be prompted to call 119 to get a test – this number works in England and Northern Ireland, but in Scotland you will need to call 0300 303 2713.

If you click “yes” that you have a mobile number you will also be asked for an email address.

You will then be asked why you are getting a test.

The 25 coronavirus testing sites for NHS staff

NHS staff can access a satellite test at 25 locations

  • Bradford Marley Stadium
  • Wakefield Fieldhead Hospital
  • Huddersfield – Greenhead College
  • Lincolnshire CCG, Cross O’Cliff Court
  • Sandwell Leasowes Intermediate Care Centre
  • Bexhill Hospital
  • Bognor Regis – Shripney Road
  • Liverpool – Hunter Street Car Park
  • Countess of Chester Hospital
  • Westmorland General Hospital (WGH) Kendal
  • Manchester Etihad Campus
  • Halifax
  • Mid Cheshire Hospital – Crewe
  • Ashton Primary Care Centre
  • Derby
  • Chesterfield
  • Enterprise House, Stockport
  • Royal Blackburn Hospital
  • University of Bolton Stadium
  • Burton Albion Football Club
  • Stoke City Football Club
  • Farnborough
  • Isle of Wight
  • Wirral (Bidston station)
  • Bury

You will be asked to select from the following options:

  • I have coronavirus symptoms (I’m not an essential worker)
  • I have coronavirus symptoms (I’m an essential worker)
  • I’m ordering for someone I live with who has coronavirus symptoms
  • I’ve been in contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus and have since developed symptoms

There are also the following options:

  • I’ve been invited to take part in the ‘visiting professional’ pilot
  • I visit care homes at least twice a week and I’m often within 1 metre of residents (parts of England only)
  • I’ve been in contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus and I’ve been asked to take a test by a contact tracer (only Northern Ireland and Scotland)
  • My local council has asked me to get a test

You will then be asked again if you have symptoms of the virus – you will then be prompted to enter your date of birth.

You will then be asked for your postcode, once you have typed this in you will be asked if you have a car or a small van.

Next you will be prompted to confirm all of your previous answers and once this is done you will be given an indication of where the closest test sites near you are.

On days one to four of your symptoms you can get a test kit either at home or at a test centre.

If you’re ordering a test kit on day four then you have to do this by 3pm.

The NHS states that on day five, you will have to go to a test site.

If you are unable to get a test within the first five days then you should self isolate.

If you are self isolating then you cannot leave your home.

People in your support bubble – who you will have had contact with, will also have to self isolate.

The high demand for coronavirus tests means that the portal for applying for a test is currently very busy.

A message on the NHS website reads: “This service is currently very busy. If you cannot get a test now, or the location or time are not convenient, try again in a few hours.”

It also states that you should not be applying for a test if you are going on holiday.

The website states: “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.”



Other options

Government tests are free but there are also other options you can pay for

The 90 minute tests

Made by Oxford Nanopore, the 90 minute test requires a saliva or nasal sample.

A machine can process around 15,000 tests a day and a portable appliance can be moved to where pop-up labs are needed.

DNAnudge uses nasal swabs and these tests are set to be rolled out from September.

The company is supplying 5,000 boxes that process the tests – with a capacity of 15 a day.

You cannot purchase these tests over the counter or online.

Antigen test

At the moment, most labs use the PCR method for antigen testing but antigen tests are being used in hospitals.

It can take days for labs to run the tests, meaning medics often can’t tell patients if they have the virus for 72 hours.

Antigens are found on the surface of invading pathogens, including coronavirus.

Testing for antigens can determine whether someone is currently carrying the virus and are actively infectious.

Samples are taken using a swab from deep inside the nose and throat before being sent off to a lab for testing.

rapid antigen test could be available through Boots or Amazon which involves miniature testing devices plugged into a socket in the wall, and can process swabs within an hour using a technology called isothermal amplification, which can find traces of the genetics of the virus. 

Antibody test

When a person gets infected with antigen, the body starts making specially designed proteins called antibodies in response – as a way to fight the infection.

After they recover, those antibodies float in the blood for months, maybe even years as the body’s way of defending itself in case it becomes infected with the virus again.

So an antibody test specifically looks for antibodies which will be able to tell whether you’ve already been exposed to Covid-19.

The check that has been developed for Covid-19 is a finger-prick blood test, with the samples sent to laboratories and results available within a few days.

The tests are more commonly being offered to frontline NHS workers.

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