Coronavirus testing – FAQs

Coronavirus cells in an electron microscope
Coronavirus cells in an electron microscope. 3D illustration
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Not sure whether you should have a coronavirus test? The following frequently asked questions set out when you should have have a test and also when you should self-isolate.

I have symptoms that I think may be coronavirus what should I do?

If you have any coronavirus-like symptoms, even just one, you must isolate immediately for 10 days (don’t wait for a test or a test result before doing so) and then book a test. The test needs to be done in the first five days of having symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

The main coronavirus symptoms are:

  • A high temperature
  • A new continuous cough
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

Most people with the infection will have at least one of these.

Who shouldn’t have a test?

People who do not have symptoms should not have a test. You will also hear this referred to as being asymptomatic. Remember: If you take a test and you don’t need one you are taking it away from someone who might need it.

Can I have a test under any other circumstances?

Sometimes you may be asked to have a test. You may be asked to have a test before you go into hospital, if your local council asks you to have one or you are taking part in a government pilot.

Who gets priority for a test?

The government has released guidance on which groups are first in line when it comes to getting a test for Covid-19. They are:

Acute clinical care staff – those who provide emergency treatment and critical care

Care home workers and residents – staff will be tested every week, and residents every 28 days, all new admissions will be tested

NHS staff – including GPs and pharmacists

People living in outbreak areas – where there is a higher chance of the virus spreading and positive result

Teachers with symptoms – to help keep classrooms and schools open

For the general public, you must only seek a test if you are displaying one or more of the symptoms of Covid-19, which are:

· A high temperature
· A new, continuous cough
· Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

You should not seek a test if you do not have any of these symptoms.

Even if you live with, or have had close contact with a positive case, you must not request a test unless you become unwell with one of the three symptoms above. This is unless you have been advised otherwise the by NHS Track and Trace system or another healthcare professional.

Read more about the government’s allocation of swab testing

Can I order a test to keep just in case?

No. You should not stockpile tests for future use.

I’ve had a test. How long will it take for me to get my results?

Most people will get their results in 48 hours.

My test result is negative, can I stop self-isolating?

A negative test result does not always mean you can end isolation early. This will depend on whether you were told to self-isolate by the NHS test-and-trace service.

Read “Negative test result” on the NHS website.

Someone I live with/someone in my support bubble has tested positive or has symptoms, should I have a test?

Only if you have symptoms. However, you do need to self-isolate with them for 14 days whilst they wait for results and you must complete the full period of self-isolation.

I have been in contact with someone who has tested positive what should I do?

If you are identified as a contact of a positive case you must isolate for the full 14 days. Only get a test if you develop symptoms. If you have a test and it is negative you should still complete the full 14-day isolation.

A pupil at my child’s school has tested positive, should my child now get tested?

They should only get a test if they develop symptoms. You can find full NHS guidance on coronavirus on this NHS page

Support for people on low incomes who are self-isolating (from 28 September)

People in Liverpool who are working or self-employed and on a low income, who must self-isolate due to Covid-19 and cannot work from home, will soon be able to claim a £500 lump-sum payment from the government.

From Monday 28 September, people with Covid-19 symptoms will be required to self-isolate by law. To help those who on low incomes who are unable to work from home, the government has announced it will be providing the £500 ‘Test and Trace Support’ payment. 

The payment scheme will be co-ordinated locally by Liverpool City Council – similar to the business support grant and Without Walls Hospitality Fund. 

The scheme will be expected to be up and running by Monday 12 October. Anyone self-isolating from Monday 28 September onwards will receive a back-dated payment.

You have to be in work or self-employed, but unable to work and, for the mandatory scheme,  in receipt of a means tested benefit.