Testing for COVID-19

Why you should have a test

Covid-19 is an infectious disease affecting the whole of the country. Coronavirus is the virus that causes Covid-19.

Getting tested as soon as you develop symptoms is essential to look after yourself, protect the most vulnerable, help to safely ease lockdown measures and help prevent and manage local outbreaks.

The quicker we can identify people who may have been at risk of infection, the more effectively we can reduce the spread of the virus.

Who should have a test and when you should get a test

If you develop any of the symptoms of Covid-19:

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

You must follow the rules to self-isolate with other members of your household straight away and order a test to find out if you have coronavirus.

If you test positive, you must share information promptly about your recent contacts through the NHS test and trace service to help them alert other people who may also need to self-isolate.

If you are not ill but have been in contact with someone who is

You should follow the rules to self-isolate.

If you have been contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service, someone who has suspected or confirmed COVID-19 has given your name as someone they have had close recent contact with. You must follow the NHS Test and Trace service and self-isolate if asked to.

If you work in a high risk setting, a front line service or occupation

COVID-19 testing for frontline key workers.

You can book a drive-through test using the government’s new self-referral portal. This gives you access to the closest regional testing site at Gatwick:

  • Gatwick - Gatwick Airport, Summer Special Car Park, Horley, Gatwick RH6 0PJ

The government has also published a guide for using the self-referral portal.

How to get a test

You can get a test:

  • for yourself, if you have coronavirus symptoms now
  • for someone you live with, if they have coronavirus symptoms
  • for yourself, if you have been told to have a test before you go into hospital, for example, for surgery

Tests can be done at a local test centre or you can order a test to be posted to you. For Brighton & Hove the closest regional test centre is at Gatwick Airport.

Book or order a test on the NHS website.

If you don’t have access to the internet, you can call 119 to book or order a test.

What the test involves

The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat. You can do this yourself (self-administered) or someone else can help you (assisted).

Find out more about what the test involves from the video on GOV.UK.

Getting an advocate, proxy or interpreter

If you are worried about getting a test, or unable to get a test by yourself, you can ask someone you trust to act as your advocate/proxy.

Your advocate/proxy can help explain the results of your test and what you need to do next.

Information in other languages

Find the latest government guidance, translated into 60 languages from Doctors of the World.

Find Test and Trace information in other languages from Cambridgeshire County Council.

There is updated Public Health England Covid-19 guidance for the public on:

  • guidance for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (Covid-19) infection who do not live with the person
  • stay at home guidance
  • guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable

This information has been translated into the 10 most spoken languages, including Arabic, Bengali Cantonese, Mandarin, French, Gujarati, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi and Urdu. 

Find the translated information on GOV.UK.

How much it costs to get a test

A test for suspected Covid-19 is free and NHS treatment for Covid-19 is free for all, including overseas visitors who are not usually entitled to free treatment from the NHS.

If you are not usually entitled to free NHS care, you may still be charged for medical treatment you receive if you test negative for Covid-19 or if your treatment is not related to Covid-19.

Telling the NHS about your immigration status

No immigration checks are needed for testing or treatment for Covid-19.

If you don’t have permission to live in the UK, you can still take a test and receive free treatment for Covid-19.

Return to the main coronavirus information web pages.

Getting your results

How you’ll receive your results

A message will be sent to your mobile phone and your email with the results and tell you what to do next.

Getting your test results if you don’t have an email address or mobile phone

An email address and phone number are currently required to book a test, but individuals who do not have an email address themselves can use a trusted proxy, like a family member, to receive their results.

The government is working on a non-digital solution.

What you need to do after the test

If your test is positive

You must follow the stay at home guidance and complete the remainder of your 7-day self-isolation. You must also share information about your recent contacts as soon as possible through NHS Test and Trace.

Anyone in your household must also self-isolate for 14 days from when you started having symptoms.

Check our self-isolation support page to see if you or any members of your household can receive additional financial or other support during your period of isolation.

If your test is negative

Other members of your household can stop self-isolating. If you feel well and no longer have symptoms similar to coronavirus, you can stop self-isolating.

Return to the main coronavirus information web pages.

NHS Test and Trace app

How to use the app

The NHS Covid-19 app is now live in England and Wales.

The free app is a vital part of the NHS Test and Trace service.

This video explains how the app works and how to use it.

Read more information about the app, including what it does and how to get help using it.

QR (quick response) posters for businesses

This video explains how businesses can register for their unique QR code and how to display it.

Visit GOV.UK to create your QR code to display in your venue.

You can also download this information in other languages.

Covid-19 and children

How contacts of children with coronavirus symptoms are traced

Contact tracers will contact anyone under 18 who tests positive for coronavirus where possible, but we require parental consent to proceed with gathering information, or alternatively for a parent or carer to provide us with information on behalf of their child.

What happens if someone in your child’s class at school displays symptoms or tests positive

When a child, young person or staff member of a school develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus, they will be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 7 days and arrange to have a test to see if they have Covid-19. Their household members should then self-isolate for 14 days.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests negative, they can return to their setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class or group within their childcare or education setting will be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class or group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms.

Find out more about coronavirus in schools, nurseries and families.

Find information in other languages about Covid-19

Doctors of the World have produced coronavirus information in many languages.

Find coronavirus information in any of the main languages spoken in Sussex from Sussex Interpreting Services.

Find a helpful set of COVID-19 infographics available in many different languages.

Translators without Borders offer free translation support to local public health teams.

Return to the main coronavirus information web pages.

Contact tracing

What contact tracing is

Contact tracing is an important way of controlling the spread of infectious diseases. It involves identifying and tracing all the people who have been in contact with a person who has been infected. Depending on the nature and duration of the contact, these contacts may require advice or treatment to prevent the disease from spreading further.

Contact tracing is a well-established method of preventing and controlling outbreaks from measles and TB through to sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia.

What to do if you don't know who you've been in contact with

A 'contact' is defined as someone: 

  • you have had close contact with
  • who's coughed on you
  • you've spent more than 15 minutes within 2 metres 

It also includes people you have travelled with in a small vehicle or sat next to on a plane.

Discussions are underway to develop guidance with local organisations working with people with visual impairments.

You may not know or remember exactly who you have had contact with. The Test and Trace team will discuss this with you or your advocate/proxy.

What to do if you’ve previously tested positive but you’re alerted as a contact

You will need to self-isolate if you're advised to, even if you've had Covid-19 previously.

Until we have a better understanding of antibodies/immunity we cannot be sure that someone will not get the virus again and/or pass it on to other people.

Self-isolating more than once

If you have been in close recent contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you will need to self-isolate, whether or not you have isolated before.

What to do if you’re told to self-isolate and you have to be at work or have made other commitments

You could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate following a positive test result for COVID-19 or if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and instructed to self-isolate.

Using Test and Trace correctly will help to control the virus until we have a vaccine, if that is possible. Self-isolating will protect you, the people you care about, your community and colleagues and the NHS and care services. It will also help to prevent a second wave of the virus.

Employers should support workers who need to self-isolate and must not ask them to attend the workplace. Find self-isolation guidance for employers from GOV.UK. 

The NHS Test and Trace service will provide a notification that can be used as evidence that you have been told to self-isolate.

Check our self-isolation support page to see if you or any members of your household can receive additional financial or other support during your period of isolation.

Getting sick pay from either your employer or the government

If it's possible for you to work from home, then you should.

Statutory sick pay is available to employees who have been contacted by the Test and Trace service because they've come into contact with someone who has coronavirus, and are unable to work as a result.

If you cannot work from home while you are self-isolating, you may be entitled to Employment Support Allowance.

Some employers may apply their own sickness policies and continue to offer full pay for all or some of your isolation period. You may also be able to claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The NHS Test and Trace service will provide a notification that can be used as evidence that you have been told to self-isolate.

You can also ask to take paid holiday for the time you’re off work, entitling you to full pay for the duration of your leave, as opposed to statutory sick pay, if you choose.

Return to the main coronavirus information web pages.

Concerns around contact tracing

Your identity will not be revealed to any contacts

When people are contacted to advise them to self-isolate, they are not told your identity.

But if you can, it is better to alert anyone you have been in close contact with when you first develop symptoms or when you get your test result, so they will be better prepared for the advice given to them.

What to do if you don’t want to, or feel you can’t share the personal details of others you’ve been in contact with

Contact tracing is a long-established and proven way of slowing the spread of an infection and our experience is that the majority of people want to help in order to protect others around them.

Throughout the process people will be reassured that all information gathered is held in strict confidence.

If you do not have a private space to provide details of those you have been in contact with, you can do this online at a time and location that is safe for you.

If you need to keep this information private, you can clear your browsing history.

If you do not have safe access to a computer or internet-enabled phone you could contact those people you have been in contact with directly to inform them. If you can safely write down those you’ve been in contact with, you could ask a support worker or trusted family member or friend to upload them for you online.

If you're contacted by someone from the NHS Test and Trace staff and it’s not safe you to speak to them at that time, you can decline or cut off the call and then call them back as soon as it is safe.

You can complete the form either online, or over the phone.

When people are contacted to advise them to self-isolate, they are not told of your identity.

Sensitivity to your personal background, culture and identity

The contact tracers have all undertaken equality, diversity and inclusion training to give them the knowledge and awareness to support people from different backgrounds.

If you'd like to find out more about NHS Test and Trace, send an email to Feedback.ContactTracing@phe.gov.uk.

How to be sure you’re actually being contacted by NHS Test and Trace

All communication from NHS Test and Trace will come from the NHS. Calls will come from 0300 013 5000 and text messages will come from ‘NHStracing’.

Contact tracers will never ask you to:

  • dial a premium rate number to speak to them, like those starting 09 or 087
  • make any form of payment or purchase a product or any kind

If you're concerned about whether a call or email you receive comes from NHS Test and Trace service, you can visit GOV.UK and view a page which lists the official phone numbers used by NHS Test and Trace service.

If you do not wish to talk over the phone, the NHS Test and Trace service can offer to send an email or text instead inviting you to log into their web-based service.

We'll continue to promote these messages so people understand what a fraudulent Test and Trace contact may look like.

Return to the main coronavirus information web pages.

Using your information

How NHS Test and Trace got your name or contact details

Someone you have recently been in close contact with has tested positive for Covid-19 and has given your name to the Test and Trace programme to help stop the spread of the virus.

If the NHS Test and Trace service contacts you by text or email, they will ask you to sign into the NHS Test and Trace contact-tracing website.

If they contact you by phone, the call will be from a single phone number: 0300 013 5000.

What information is collected and why

To trace the contacts of people with Covid-19, NHS Test and Trace needs to collect personally identifiable information.

The information about people with Covid-19 comes from the hospital and laboratory test reports sent to Public Health England. These people are either sent a text message or email, or are called by someone working for NHS Test and Trace Service and asked to confirm or provide their:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • sex
  • NHS number
  • home postcode and house number
  • phone number and email address
  • Covid-19 symptoms, including when they started and their nature

They're also asked to provide the contact details of anyone they have been in close contact with.

The people who are close contacts of someone with Covid-19 are then either sent a text message or email or are called by someone working for NHS Test and Trace Service and asked to confirm or provide:

  • their full name, date of birth and contact details
  • details of any Covid-19 symptoms they may have had

This information is used to provide them with advice on self-isolation and how to protect themselves and others from Covid-19.

The website or call handler will ask for information about your symptoms so that advice can be given on the need to self-isolate and/or test.

If you test positive, you'll be asked to log onto NHS Test and Trace to provide the name and contact details for everyone you've had significant contact with. Those without the internet can give this information over the phone.

Contact tracers will:

  • call you from 0300 013 5000
  • send you text messages from ‘NHStracing’
  • ask you to sign into the NHS Test and Trace
  • ask for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer support while self-isolating
  • ask about the coronavirus symptoms you've been experiencing
  • ask you to provide the name, telephone number and email address of anyone you have had close contact with in the 2 days prior to your symptoms starting
  • ask if anyone you've been in contact with is under 18 or lives outside of England

NHS Test and Trace will then make contact with each of those people to notify them that they need to self-isolate for 14 days and to take a test.

How your information will be used

The number of contact tracers needed for Covid-19 is unprecedented so the Department of Health and Social Care has instructed four organisations to help:

These organisations are only permitted to use information collected by NHS Test and Trace to help with the Covid-19 contact tracing.

They're data processors acting on the instructions of the Department of Health and Social Care and cannot use the contact tracing information for any other purpose.

How your information will be protected and who it will be shared with

Any personally identifiable information collected by NHS Test and Trace is protected in several ways.

It's held on computer systems, which have been tested to make sure they are secure and are being kept up-to-date to make sure they're safe from viruses and hacking.

The information can only be seen by:

  • the Public Health England staff working on NHS Test and Trace
  • the contact tracers from local authority public health teams, who can only see the information of people with Covid-19 and their contacts for their local area
  • the contact tracers working for NHS Professionals, who can only see the information of the people with Covid-19 and the contacts they have been instructed to call
  • the contact tracers working for Serco UK and SITEL Group, who can only see the information of the contacts they have been instructed to call

All the Public Health England, local authority public health team, NHS Professionals, Serco UK and SITEL Group staff working on NHS Test and Trace have been trained to protect the confidentiality of people with Covid-19 and their contacts.

The staff working for Amazon Web Services are not able to see any of the information collected by NHS Test and Trace.

The information collected by NHS Test and Trace is held in the UK only.

No information that could identify any person with Covid-19 or their contacts will ever be published by Public Health England or any of the organisations working with it on NHS Test and Trace.

Find out more about how your information is used in Public Health England's privacy notice.

How long your information will be kept

The personally identifiable information collected by NHS Test and Trace for people with Covid-19 symptoms is kept by Public Health England for 8 years.

The personally identifiable information collected on the contacts of people with Covid-19 but who do not have any symptoms is kept by Public Health England for 5 years.

This information needs to be kept for this long because Covid-19 is a new disease and it may be necessary to know who has been infected, or been in close contact with someone with symptoms, to help control any future outbreaks or to provide any new treatments.

How else your information may be used

Your information may also be used for different purposes that are not directly related to your health and care. These include:

  • research into Covid-19, including potentially being invited to be part of clinical trials
  • planning of services or actions in response to Covid-19
  • monitoring the progress and development of Covid-19

Information provided by you, and collected about you, in relation to contact-tracing for Covid-19 will not be used for any purpose that is not linked to Covid-19.

Whenever possible, information that does not directly identify you will be used for these purposes, but there may be times when it's necessary for your personal information to be used. Any releases of information that identify you will be lawful and the minimum necessary for that purpose.

What your rights are around the use of your information

If your personally identifiable information is collected by NHS Test and Trace, you have the right to ask for:

  • a copy of any information about you that is used
  • any information held about you that you think is inaccurate to be changed
  • the use of any information held about you to be restricted - for example, you can ask this where you think the information Public Health England is using is inaccurate
  • any information held about you not to be used - this is not an absolute right and Public Health England may need to continue to use your information and we'll tell you why if this is the case
  • any information held about you to be deleted - this is not an absolute right and Public Health England may need to continue to use your information and we'll tell you why if this is the case.

You can exercise any of these rights by contacting Public Health England at:

Public Information Access Office
Public Health England
Wellington House
133-155 Waterloo Road
London SE1 8UG

You can send an email to FOI@phe.gov.uk.

You will be asked to provide proof of your identity so that we can be sure we only provide you with your personal information.

How you can find out more, or share your concerns

If you would like to find out more about NHS Test and Trace, you can send an email to Feedback.ContactTracing@phe.gov.uk.

If you have any concerns about how your personally identifiable information is used and protected by Public Health England, you can contact our Data Protection Officer at dataprotectionofficer@phe.gov.uk or write to:

Data Protection Officer
c/o Public Information Access Office
Public Health England
4th Floor, Wellington House
133-155 Waterloo Road
London SE1 8UG

You also have the right to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office if you have any concerns about how Public Health England uses and protects any personally identifiable information it holds about you.

You can phone the ICO’s helpline on 0303 123 1113 or start a live internet chat.

Return to the main coronavirus information web pages.