Updated 20 January 2022

There are different tests you can get to check if you have coronavirus. The test you need depends on why you're getting tested.

If you have symptoms (PCR test)

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, even mild, you must self-isolate immediately and get a COVID-19 PCR test.

The main symptoms are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

You can order a home test to be sent to you, or for the fastest result book an appointment at a PCR test site. You will be shown the times and locations available when you book. Results for PCR tests taken at the test sites in the city are usually shared well within 24 hours.

If you test positive you'll need to stay at home and self-isolate as advised. When you receive your results you’ll be given advice about what to do next.

If you have any symptoms it’s really important that you get a PCR test and don’t use a lateral flow test. 

You should not use this service if you’ve received a positive PCR test result in the last 90 days, unless you get any new COVID-19 symptoms.

Testing for people without symptoms (lateral flow tests)

About 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms but can still infect others. Even if you’re vaccinated, you can still catch the virus and pass it on. 

You should take a lateral flow test on days when you're more likely to catch or spread COVID-19, before you meet others, socialise or go to crowded or enclosed places.

For example, do a test before you:

  • mix with people in crowded or enclosed places
  • visit someone who is at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19

Check the instructions in your pack before testing. Different types of home testing kits are available. All are easy to use but the way they work varies. Find out more about the different testing packs or watch a video on how to take your swab and test for your results.

Report all results (positive, negative or void) and within 24 hours of testing. This helps to help track the spread of COVID-19 and ensures that you receive the most up-to-date guidance to follow.

If you test positive from a lateral flow test you must follow the latest guidance around self-isolation. You no longer need to order a PCR test to confirm the result but if you test positive you must self-isolate immediately.

Some exceptions apply. You only need to confirm a positive lateral flow test if:

  • you're applying for a Test and Trace Support Payment
  • you're eligible for new COVID-19 treatments
  • you're asked to do so as part of research
  • you have a positive lateral flow test on or before day 2 of arriving in England from outside the UK

The change is temporary while prevalence is high as the chances of false positives are low.

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 a lateral flow test is not the right one to take. You should book a free PCR test.

Where to get your free lateral flow tests

  • Order a home test kit online or by calling 119.
  • Pick up test kits from Hove Town Hall (open Monday to Friday) or Jubilee Library (open every day). 
  • Collect packs from most pharmacies. You will need to register for a collect code before picking up tests from a pharmacy. Please note, demand is high and supplies are regularly being re-stocked. If you can’t get hold of a testing kit immediately, please keep trying.
  • Book a supervised test at participating pharmacies if you don't feel confident doing the test by yourself. These tests are taken under supervision of a member of staff who will then process your result for you on site within 30 minutes. 
  • Test kits are also available for secondary school age children through their school and from some workplaces. 

More information about symptom-free testing is available on the GOV.UK website.

Self-isolation guidance for those who test positive

Anyone who develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 on a lateral flow or PCR test must self-isolate immediately.

The self-isolation advice for people with COVID-19 has changed and you may be able to end your self-isolation period before the end of the 10 full days.

If you do not have a temperature, you can take an LFD test from 5 days after the day your symptoms started (or the day your test was taken if you did not have symptoms), and another LFD test on the following day. If both these test results are negative, and you do not have a high temperature, you may end your self-isolation after the second negative test result.

Please report your LFD test results after taking each test.

You should not take an LFD test before the fifth day of your self-isolation period, and you should only end your self-isolation after you have had 2 negative LFD tests taken on consecutive days. If the test result is positive, please wait 24 hours before you take another test.

The self-isolation period remains 10 full days for those without negative results from 2 LFD tests taken a day apart.

If you end your self-isolation early, you are strongly advised to limit close contact with people outside your household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces, to further reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19. Work from home if you can and limit contact with anyone at higher risk of severe illness.

This isolation guidance also applies to children and young people who usually attend an education or childcare setting.

Please do not leave your isolation to collect a testing kit. We recommend that you order a kit for delivery to your home, or ask a friend, relative, or carer to collect a kit on your behalf. 

If you've been in close contact with someone who's tested positive

If you've been in close contact with someone who's tested positive for COVID-19 and you’re:

  • fully vaccinated (where you received your second dose more than two weeks ago), or aged between 5 years and 18 years and 6 months old, you should do daily rapid tests (1 a day for 7 days). You do not need to isolate if your tests show a negative result. If you test positive you should self-isolate immediately. Find out more about daily testing on GOV.UK
  • not fully vaccinated, get a PCR test and stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days even if your PCR is negative. 

Find out more about when to self-isolate and what to do.

Support if you need to self-isolate

Self-isolating can be difficult but help is available to help you get through it. If you or someone you look after needs to self-isolate and that means you can't work or face financial difficulty, you may be eligible for a one-off payment of £500. To be eligible you will need to meet criteria and you will still need to get a confirmatory PCR test.

If you need more than financial help and have worries about loneliness, the effect on your mental health, shopping or childcare, we have an experienced team who can help. Please contact our community advice and support hub.

More information

Covid symptoms

Which test to use and when

Test and trace: how it works

Stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection