Explanation: How to book a Coronavirus test after a recent rule change

Anyone who thinks they have the coronavirus can book a free NHS test to check if they have the disease.

People of all ages in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can take a swab test to see if they need to self-isolate.

Tests can be taken at a central test site near where you live, or they can be sent to you for return.

The government’s latest advice is to only undergo testing if symptoms of the Coronavirus appear – that is, a high temperature, a new persistent cough, or a loss of the sense of smell or taste.

Anyone with these symptoms can book a test through the government’s website.


Covid-19 tests involve wiping the inside of the nose and the back of the throat with a long cotton bud.

If the test is taken at a local test site, results will be provided via text message or email as soon as the next day.

Meanwhile, postal exams may take an additional day to reach laboratories, and thus may take longer.

To have the greatest chance of identifying the virus, tests should be done within the first five days of symptoms appearing.

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As the infection rate increases, and more people search for tests, the service can get very busy, so local test sites may be full, or mail packages may not be available at certain times.

Therefore, the government’s advice is to update the website in a “few hours” to check for extra boxes, and not to book if symptoms are not present so that the people who need testing the most can get tested.

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Should I self-isolate?

Anyone with symptoms of the Coronavirus must isolate themselves with anyone who lives with them until the test result arrives.

This also applies to anyone in the “support bubble” – the extra family they are allowed to mix with if they live alone.


Anyone who cannot take a five-day test since the test will be effective once symptoms begin should self-isolate.

After a positive result, it is important to self-isolate immediately, for at least ten days from when symptoms began, or from ten days when the test was taken if symptoms did not appear.

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The people with whom the affected person lives, and anyone in their support bubble, must self-isolate for 14 days from the time the affected person begins self-isolating.

After getting a negative result again, self-isolation is not necessary as long as everyone you live with and everyone in the support bubble has tested negative as well.

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