Coronavirus (COVID-19): Testing

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

Testing is available to people with and without symptoms. It can be carried out at home, or at one of the many coronavirus testing centres across Scotland.

You can get a test for:

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

Types of coronavirus test

The 2 main coronavirus tests are:

  • polymerase chain reaction (PCR) – used mainly for people with symptoms
  • lateral flow device (LFD) – used for people who do not have symptoms

The coronavirus test you should take depends on why you’re getting tested and whether you have symptoms.

If you have sight loss, you can access information about support with coronavirus testing at eyes.scot

PCR tests

You must take a PCR test if you have any one of the three symptoms of coronavirus. These are:

  • a high temperature or fever
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss of, or change in sense of smell or taste

A new, continuous cough means coughing for longer than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. If you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual.

Priority testing

Certain groups who have symptoms of coronavirus will be prioritised for PCR testing during busy periods.

You'll be prioritised for PCR testing if you are:

Those in a priority group should specify this when asked in the PCR booking portal.

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

Find out how to do a PCR test at home and get advice on your test result

A PCR test involves taking a swab of the throat and nose. PCR tests are processed in a laboratory, and are a reliable way to detect the genetic material of a virus.

You’ll normally receive your PCR test result within 48 hours.

You should also book a PCR test if:

  • you’re a close contact who isn’t fully vaccinated
  • you're self-isolating and intend to apply for the self-isolation grant
  • you’re in a high risk group prioritised for coronavirus treatments and have had a positive LFD test result
  • you’ve been asked to get a test by your local council, health protection team or healthcare professional
  • you’ve had 2 or more void LFD results
What does fully vaccinated mean?

A close contact who is fully vaccinated means you've received 3 doses of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before you last saw the person who tested positive. If you live with the person who tested positive, the 14 days is counted from the day their symptoms started, or 14 days before they tested positive if they don't have symptoms.

LFD tests

LFD (lateral flow device) tests are self-tests for people who do not have coronavirus symptoms.

LFD tests:

  • are simple to use
  • give a result in 15 to 30 minutes
  • can be taken at home, or at an asymptomatic test site
  • help find positive cases in people who are infectious but don’t have symptoms

Everyone in Scotland is encouraged to take this type of test twice a week. You should also take an LFD test before you socialise or travel in Scotland. In some situations, you can end self-isolation early if your LFD test result is negative.

Read further information about the rules for ending self-isolation early.

Your LFD test is not complete until you report your result, either online or by phone, and receive a result confirmation notification. It’s very important that you report your result so your contacts can be traced. This helps to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the community.

If you receive a positive LFD test result, you must report your result and self-isolate immediately.

Find out how to do an LFD test at home and get advice on your test result

Repeat PCR testing

Repeating a PCR test within 90 days of a positive result is not recommended for the general public, unless you develop new symptoms. This is because while you may no longer be infectious, a repeated PCR test can detect fragments of coronavirus genetic material that have not yet left your system. This means you can still get a positive test result several weeks after you have had coronavirus and are no longer infectious.

It’s not yet known how long immunity will last following infection. If you recover from coronavirus and later develop new symptoms, you must:

Proof of a negative test for overseas travel

You won’t be tested through Test and Protect if you need to prove you don’t have coronavirus as a condition of travel. This will need to be done privately.

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

Read further information about testing for people travelling to Scotland

Antibody tests

Read about antibody testing in Scotland

Feedback

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