Coronavirus (COVID-19): Testing

Testing is part of the national Test and Protect approach to containing coronavirus (COVID-19).

There are test centres across Scotland for people with and without symptoms. Home testing kits may also be available.

You can get 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.

Testing for 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

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.

Public Health Scotland has published information and guidance for care home settings (adults and older people) (PDF, 1.2 MB).

Types of coronavirus test

The 2 types of coronavirus test currently being used regularly are:

  • polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
  • lateral flow device (LFD) – also known as a rapid test

PCR tests

If you have symptoms or have been asked to get a test for a specific reason, book a PCR test.

PCR tests detect the genetic material of a virus and are the most reliable coronavirus tests. It takes some time to get the results because they are usually processed in a laboratory.

LFD tests – also known as rapid tests

LFD tests detect proteins in coronavirus. They are simple and quick to use, so are sometimes called rapid tests. LFD tests are not as accurate as PCR tests and are mainly used in people who do not have symptoms.

If you have a positive LFD test, you should have a PCR test to confirm the result within 48 hours and isolate while waiting for the result.

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.

GOV.UK has further information about antibody testing for coronavirus

Proof of a negative test for overseas travel

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.


You can provide feedback or make a complaint about your coronavirus testing experience by emailing NHS National Services Scotland

Further information