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 drive-through testing sites at:

  • Glasgow airport
  • Edinburgh airport
  • Aberdeen airport
  • Prestwick airport
  • Dudhope Castle, Dundee
  • University of the Highlands and Islands campus, Inverness

There are also a number of mobile testing units across Scotland.

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.

Walk-through test centres

NHS Scotland's Test & Protect: Walk In Test Centre Guide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6JhOplZLIM)

There are 22 local walk-through test centres being set up in high-population areas. 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.

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. You can either do this yourself, or a site assistant can do it for you. Your test sample will then be collected by staff and sent to a lab for analysis.

Testing for children aged 11 and under

If you are a parent or guardian of a child aged 11 and 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

If you have coronavirus symptoms you must isolate before your test and while waiting for your 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 sent by text or email to whoever booked the test within 48 hours.

Positive result with or without symptoms

If you test positive you should follow all the guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection

You must isolate at home for 10 days from the day your test was taken, and all other members of your household must isolate at home for 14 days from the day your test was taken.

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.

Contact tracing form

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

To help with this you will receive a link to a secure online form with your test result so you can share who you have been in close contact with or any places you have been.

How contact tracing works

The contract tracing form explained (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEuSBvJPAMg)

Video explaining how the Test and Protect online contact tracing form works.

Negative result

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.

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
  • returned from a non-exempt country and are still within your 14 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.

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 but this doesn’t mean that you are still infectious. You may end self-isolation after 10 days as long as you feel better and no longer have a high temperature.

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 an episode of infection, or how long any immunity will last. If you recover from an episode of coronavirus confirmed by testing, and you later develop new symptoms, you still need to follow all the advice about self-isolation and household isolation again. 

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