Coronavirus (COVID-19): Get a test if you have symptoms

Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should isolate immediately and book a test using this service.

The test you’ll book is a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. PCR tests detect the genetic material of a virus and are the most reliable coronavirus tests.

Who should use this service

Use this service to book a test if you have symptoms of coronavirus.

You should get tested in the first 3 days of symptoms appearing, although testing is effective until day 5. You won’t normally be tested after day 5 unless it’s for a specific reason. This will be agreed on a case-by-case basis.

You can also book a test if:

  • you’ve been asked to get a test by a local council or health protection team
  • you’re taking part in a government pilot project
  • you’ve been asked to get a test to confirm a positive result
  • you’ve been identified as a close contact through Test and Protect or the Protect Scotland app

If you do not have symptoms, and you have not been asked to book a test for any of these reasons, you may be able to access a LFD test.

If you’re a close contact of someone who has tested positive

You may have been advised to book a test because you’re a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

If you live with this person, you should book your test 3 to 5 days after their symptoms started.

If you do not live with this person, you should book your test 3 to 5 days after the day you last spent time with them.

If you can’t book your test within 5 days, book it as soon as possible.

If you’re a close contact, but you’ve already tested positive in the past 90 days, you should not get tested, unless you develop symptoms yourself.

All close contacts must still isolate for 10 days, whether their test result is positive or negative.

How to book a test

Use this guide to find out how to get tested for coronavirus.

Self-help guide

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Phone the National Testing Centre (0300 303 2713) if you can’t access the test form online.

Test centres

There are drive-through testing sites, mobile testing units and walk-through test centres across Scotland. Home testing kits are also available.

For a full list of testing sites, read Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): getting tested in Scotland

Walk-through test centres

A guide to walk-in test centres (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6JhOplZLIM)

Walk-through test centres are easy to travel to by walking or cycling. You don’t need to drive to them.

If you are attending a walk-through test centre you must:

  • stay 2 metres apart from others
  • maintain good hygiene
  • wear a face covering throughout

You must not travel to walk-through test centres by taxi or public transport.

Walk-through testing centres have been designed so people can move around them safely and to prevent the spread of the virus. There are other ways to access testing – such as home test kits and drive-through sites – that are more suitable if you're unable to wear a face covering.

At the walk-through test centre, you will self-test in a booth. The test involves taking a swab of your nose and the back of your throat. Your test sample will then be collected by staff and sent to a lab for analysis.

Testing for children aged 11 or under

If you are a parent or guardian of a child aged 11 or under, you will have to swab test your child.

This applies whether you:

  • get a home test kit
  • go to a test site

Test results

If you have coronavirus symptoms you must isolate before your test and while waiting for your results.

The test will confirm if a person has the virus. It won’t confirm whether they have had it and recovered.

Results are sent by text or email to whoever booked the test within 48 hours.

Positive result

If you test positive you should follow all the guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.

If you have symptoms, you and your household must self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started.

If you have had a positive test but have had no symptoms, you and your household must self-isolate for 10 days from the day your test was taken. However, if you develop symptoms in the days after your test, you should re-start your own and your household’s isolation from the day your symptoms start.

Someone from the Test and Protect contact tracing service will contact you to help identify who you’ve been in close contact with.

Contact tracing will begin when you receive a positive test result.

Negative result

Even if you have had a negative result, it’s important to still apply caution.

You can end isolation and return to work after a negative test result if:

  • everyone in your household with symptoms receives a negative test result too
  • you are well enough and have not had a fever for 48 hours

You should discuss your return to work with your employer, and should only return to work if you cannot do your work from home.

You cannot return to work after a negative test result if you have:

  • been told you are a close contact by the Test and Protect service
  • returned from overseas and are still within your 10 day self-isolation period
  • a negative test but someone in your house has a positive test, or has symptoms and has not been tested yet

If, after returning to work, you develop symptoms you should follow our self-isolation guidance.

Close contacts

All close contacts must still isolate for 10 days, whether their test result is positive or negative.

As a close contact you cannot leave self-isolation if your test comes back negative. A test provides a point in time assessment of whether someone had the infection when the test was taken. It cannot indicate whether someone is incubating the disease, and therefore may go on to develop it after a test is taken. It’s for this reason that close contacts must complete the required 10 days of self-isolation.

Test could not be read

You may have had a ‘could not be read’ test result. This means it’s not possible to say if you had the virus when the test was done. You’ll need to get another test as soon as possible.

You must continue to isolate if you:

  • have, or develop, symptoms of coronavirus
  • have been told you are a close contact by the Test and Protect service
  • live with someone who has symptoms or has had a positive test result

Repeat testing

Repeating testing to show you no longer have coronavirus is not currently recommended for the general public.

The test can stay positive for several weeks after you’ve had coronavirus. This doesn’t mean that you are still infectious. You may end self-isolation after 10 days as long as you feel better and have not had a temperature for 48 hours.

If your employer has told you that you need to be re-tested, you should follow their advice on when you can return to work.

Because this is a new disease, it is not yet known how much immunity people will develop following infection, or how long any immunity will last. If you recover from coronavirus and you later develop new symptoms, you still need to follow all the advice about self-isolation and household isolation again. 

Further information