Coronavirus (COVID-19): Testing

The purpose of the UK Government testing programme is to determine whether those with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms (however mild) have the virus.

This is separate to the existing health and social care key worker testing programme.

Testing is part of the national Test and Protect approach to containing the virus.

Who can be tested

Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus should be tested. You can book a test for:

  • yourself
  • someone you care for
  • a child in your care

Key workers, and anyone in their household with symptoms, can access testing through their employer in the first instance and will be given priority.

Key workers in Scotland

For the purpose of testing, the Scottish Government has divided key workers into 5 priority groups:

  • Priority Group 1A: Staff delivering NHS services, providing social care to protect and care for the most vulnerable, all NHS staff and independent contractors working for the NHS
  • Priority Group 1B: Staff with face-to-face roles in residential institutions with people in the care of the state and those who are working in essential services with niche roles, where service resilience is at risk
  • Priority Group 2: Essential workers in critical national infrastructure fundamental for safety and security, and life-line services
  • Priority Group 3: Staff directly involved in delivering other essential services
  • Priority Group 4: Staff and volunteers in third or public sector organisations including unpaid carers, and staff in nationally or locally significant industry important to economic sustainability and growth

Health and care workers

If you’re a health or social care key worker currently self-isolating because you or someone in your household has coronavirus symptoms, and you’re otherwise able to work, contact your employer about testing. Your employer will be able to advise if anyone in your household with symptoms is eligible to be tested.

Public Health Scotland has published interim guidance on testing in care homes and the management of positive residents.

When to test

The test is only reliable if you have coronavirus symptoms.

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.

Access testing

There are testing sites at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Prestwick airports, and in Perth and Inverness at the University of the Highlands and Islands campuses.

Home testing kits are also available and come with comprehensive instructions to guide you through administering the swab yourself. These kits are delivered and collected by Amazon and Royal Mail, and they do not have access to the results or any health data.

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

Priority for health and care workers

Health and social care workers will continue to be primarily routed through NHS testing at local NHS facilities. However, if there are times when NHS testing capacity is at its maximum, then full use should be made of the testing opportunities offered by the UK Government Programme. 

Health and social care workers who are self-employed – such as personal care assistants – should access testing through the UK Testing Programme self-referral portal route for essential workers.

How to get tested

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

Self-help guide

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Phone the coronavirus helpline (0800 028 2816) if you can’t access the test form online or need help to complete it.

Test results

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

Results are issued to whoever booked the test and are fed back into public health records. They are sent by text to your mobile phone and should be with you within 48 hours.

Even if you have had a negative result, it’s important to still apply caution and you should still self-isolate if you have travelled from a country that requires you to quarantine on arrival.

Returning to work after a negative result

You can 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
  • you have 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.

Antibody tests

Antibody testing is being used in Scotland for population research and, where appropriate, clinical management of patients. You can request an antibody test, but this will be at the discretion of your clinician and depend on whether this will affect your treatment or clinical management.

Antibody tests can show if you have had the virus, but a positive test does not mean you are immune from further infection or from being able to infect others. If you have recovered from a coronavirus infection you should continue to follow physical distancing measures and self-isolation advice if you develop new symptoms to protect others.

More about antibody testing for coronavirus is available through GOV.UK.

Proof of a negative test for overseas travel

You won’t be tested for coronavirus unless you have symptoms or work in certain roles and need to travel for work. This includes those who work in care homes and selected groups of healthcare workers, and only if this has been agreed as a policy or occupational health decision.

You won’t be tested if you need to prove you don’t have coronavirus as a condition of travel.

If you need to travel for work and require evidence of a test, speak to your occupational health adviser.

Further information