Test and Trace
The NHS Test and Trace service forms part of the Government’s strategy to reduce the spread of coronavirus and help us to return to normal.
- What is the Test and Trace service?
- How do I get a test for coronavirus?
- What are the different types of test?
- How long do I need to isolate for?
- How will I be contacted if I have been in contact with someone who has tested positive?
- What is the NHS Covid-19 app?
- Where can I get support if I need to self-isolate?
- What if I live with a vulnerable person?
- I have already tested positive for coronavirus, do I still need to self-isolate?
- I have another question about Test and Trace
There are a few important changes to the Test and Trace service
- The Government's routine Test and Trace scheme has ended. This means all contacts of someone with coronavirus will no longer be advised to take daily tests.
- Routine contact tracing has ended. This means you'll no longer be informed if you've been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Those that test positive are encouraged to tell people they've been in contact with themselves.
- You no longer legally have to self-isolate following a positive coronavirus test or if you've been in contact with someone that tests positive.
- Your local health team may continue to use contact tracing if they consider this necessary.
However, we'd still strongly advise that if you test positive for coronavirus you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people – especially those in an at-risk group, even if you live in the same household.
What is the Test and Trace service?
The NHS Test and Trace service was set up to test anyone with coronavirus symptoms and, if the test is positive, contact those that have recently come into close contact with that person, but it's no longer being used.
How do I get a test for coronavirus?
If you want to do a coronavirus test you'll now have to pay for it. If you fall into one of the following groups, you can still get free tests.
During a coronavirus outbreak
- Care home staff and residents (also upon admission), whether you have symptoms or not
If you have coronavirus symptoms
- People who are eligible for community coronavirus treatments as they're at a higher risk of getting seriously ill - these people will be contacted directly and sent lateral flows at home to use if they have symptoms
- Certain patients in hospital where a PCR test is required for their care and to provide access to treatments and support ongoing clinical surveillance for new variants
- People being discharged from hospital into care homes, hospices or homelessness settings and domestic abuse refuges.
Those who work in the following settings
- Patient-facing NHS staff and NHS-commissioned independent healthcare providers
- Staff in hospices and adult social care services, such as care homes and home care
- A small number of care home visitors who provide personal care
- Staff in high-risk domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings
- Staff in some prisons and places of detention
What are the different types of test?
There are currently 2 types of test that are available to detect coronavirus.
PCR test: This is the most accurate test available, but the results take some time as they need to be sent to a laboratory.
Lateral flow test (rapid test): These tests are being used more widely in work settings and other community-based settings as they provide results within 30 minutes and don’t need to be sent to a laboratory. They’re intended to identify those without symptoms.
How long do I need to isolate for?
You no longer legally have to self-isolate if you test positive for coronavirus or are in contact with someone that has, regardless of your vaccination status.
However, we strongly advise if you do test positive that you stay at home and avoid contact with others, especially those in at-risk groups. After 5 days, you may choose to do a lateral flow test followed by another the next day. If both are negative and you don't have a temperature, you can safely return to your normal routine.
How will I be contacted if I have been in contact with someone who has tested positive?
You'll no longer be contacted by the Test and Trace service if you've been in contact with someone with coronavirus. Though, if you receive a positive test result you're advised to let people you've been in contact with know.
Your local health team may continue to use contact tracing if necessary. But if your local health team contact you, they won't disclose the identity of the person you've been in contact with.
You won't be asked to provide any details of anyone you've been in contact with, but you should be provided advice and guidance on how to self-isolate and the symptoms to look out for.
What is the NHS Covid-19 app?
The NHS has launched an app that lets you know if you've been exposed to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. You can download it for free on your phone.
It helps identify those that you don't know but have been in close contact with – for example, someone you sat close to on the bus. It also lets you know about the risk level in your area.
Where can I get support if I need to self-isolate?
Speak to a family member, friend, trusted neighbour or local community support group about helping you with essential supplies, such as food and medicine. These should be left on the doorstep for you to collect. If you need help putting your shopping away, you should wait in another room while that’s happening.
If these options aren't appropriate, you can use the following options for support:
- Your local Age UK may be able to support you or help you find local provisions being made in your area. You can find their contact details here by entering your postcode.
- Community aid groups offer help to those in need in the community. Most of these can be accessed via social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter.
- Your local council may be able to support you or direct you to those who can. You can find your council here.
If you feel worried, scared or sad about having to stay at home and away from your loved ones, take a look at our staying safe and well at home advice.
What if I live with a vulnerable person?
If you live with someone who is clinically vulnerable (for example, if they are aged over 70 or have underlying health conditions) or clinically extremely vulnerable (those who were advised to shield), you may wish to arrange for them to move out of your home to stay with friends or family for the duration of your home isolation period. If this is not possible, you should stay away from them as much as you can and practice good handwashing and hygiene measures.
I have already tested positive for coronavirus, do I still need to self-isolate?
Yes. It's possible to get coronavirus more than once, so if you get symptoms we strongly advise you stay at home and avoid contact with other people, especially those in an at-risk group.
After 5 days, you might choose to do a lateral flow test followed by another the next day. If both are negative and you don't have a temperature, you can safely return to your normal routine.
I have another question about Test and Trace
What does a coronavirus test involve?
This tests for the presence of coronavirus and is taken in two samples – one from the back of your throat and one from inside your nose. At the drive-through testing sites, you'll remain in your car while a doctor or nurse takes this from you. You may also be asked to carry out the test yourself – but you'll be given clear instructions and there will be people on hand to help you. If you're doing the test yourself at home, take a look at this video to see how to take the swab.
You will be notified of the test results a few days later.
Lateral flow test (rapid test)
Lateral flow tests also include taking a swab from your nose and throat – but if you’re administering one yourself, there are other steps you need to take in order to get your results. Instructions will be included in the tests you receive, but this video can help.
If you need help booking a test or have any questions about your test results you can call 119 from 7am to 11pm.
Can everyone access free testing and treatment for coronavirus?
From 1 April the Government will no longer provide free coronavirus tests. You can still get them before then, but the number you'll be sent will be limited. This applies to everyone except:
- a small number of at-risk groups
- social care staff
You'll still be able to purchase coronavirus tests if you want to.
Some people pay for certain treatments provided by the NHS, but treatment for coronavirus is exempt from charging.
Migrants who are classed as ‘overseas visitors’, undocumented migrants and those with precarious immigration status will not be charged for the treatment of coronavirus. This is regardless of whether you test positively or negatively for coronavirus.
The Government has also said that NHS trusts have been advised that no immigration checks are required for overseas visitors that are known to be undergoing treatment for COVID-19.
Information in community languages
You can find information on the charging exemption translated into community languages at the top of this page.
Doctors of the World have translated wider guidance which can be found here.
I'm worried about Test and Trace scams. What can I do?
The NHS Test and Trace service has ended. This means you shouldn't be contacted by the service.
There may be instances your local health team continue to use contact tracing if necessary.
Unfortunately, there are some scams related to the test and trace service. Below is some information to help you to identify a scam and stay safe.
If your local contact tracers do contact you, they WILL NOT:
- Ask you to dial a premium rate number (e.g. those starting with 09 or 087).
- Ask you to make any payments or purchases.
- Ask for any details about your bank account.
- Ask for any of your log-in details/passwords/pins or those of your contacts.
- Provide medical advice on treatment of potential coronavirus symptoms.
- Disclose any of your personal or medical information to contacts.
- Ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS.
- Ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else.
If you get a call about testing positive for coronavirus but you haven’t taken a test in the past few days, then the call is not genuine.
Genuine communications through email or text message will not ask you for personal information upfront – they will ask you to go to the following website: https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk. This is the only website a legitimate message will ask you to visit. You will be provided with a unique ID number to input into the website which is where you may need to provide more information, including date of birth, address, contact details of those you were in touch with and recent activities. If you’re unsure whether a message is genuine, it may be best to enter the URL yourself rather than click on it in the communication you receive.
If you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive but haven't tested positive yourself, then you will not be asked to pass on the details of anyone you’ve been in contact with – so if you are asked for that information, it could be a fraudulent call.
If you're concerned about the identity of any contact you receive, you shouldn't feel under pressure to provide information.
If you think that you've been scammed you should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. If there are financial implications, you should let your bank know as soon as possible.