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Are you eligible for a COVID-19 test?

The government has announced that millions more people can now get tested for coronavirus. Find out if you’re eligible and, if so, how you can arrange a test.

A blue medical mask
Image by Dimitri Karastelev

Is coronavirus affecting you and your finances?

Get help in our COVID-19 hub.

Visit the hub

The government has recently announced an increased capacity for testing people for COVID-19, meaning millions more people are now eligible.

Previously, only key workers and the people who lived with them were able to get tested if they had symptoms. However, this has now been expanded to include many more people.

The government has said that this increased level of testing will provide people with greater certainty, and is a big part of how we are going to defeat coronavirus. So it’s worth checking whether you’re eligible to get tested.

The priority will still be to test hospital patients. However, you can now get tested if you fall into any of these categories:

If you have symptoms and you:

  • Are an essential worker, including NHS and social care workers. (See this full list of essential workers.)
  • Are over 65
  • Can’t work from home (e.g. construction workers, shop workers, emergency plumbers, delivery drivers)
  • Live with someone who falls into the above categories

Even if you don’t have symptoms but you are:

  • A social care worker in a care home
  • A resident in a care home
  • An NHS worker or patient where there is a clinical need, in line with NHS England guidance

If you fall into any of these groups, you can find out whether you have COVID-19. Bear in mind that testing is most effective within 3 days of symptoms developing.

You can either arrange a test yourself, or arrange one through your employer.

1. Arrange the test yourself

If you’re an essential worker and you’re currently self-isolating because you have symptoms, or you live with someone who has symptoms, you can book a test on the government website.

You can choose how you want to take the coronavirus test. You can choose either a drive-through at a regional test site or get a home test kit.

Home test kit availability will initially be limited but more will become available.

2. Arrange the test through your employer

Your employer can also refer you for testing.

Employers can do this by uploading the full names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers to a secure employer portal. (Employers: you can do this here.)

If you’re referred by your employer through this portal, you’ll get a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for yourself or someone you live with.

Drive-through tests will take place at regional testing sites. The government aims to open 48 sites by the end of April, with the aim that people won’t have to drive for more than 45 minutes to get to a testing site.

Home test kits can be delivered to your door, so you can test yourself and those you live with without leaving the house. Home test kit availability will initially be limited but more will become available.

Testing is available at NHS sites, such as a hospitals, for patients and some NHS workers. The government is also developing mobile testing units that will operate from regional testing sites, and will deliver tests where they are needed.

The test is a simple swab test. It involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, and can be done by yourself or by someone else.

If you’ve got a home testing kit or have been given a self-test kit at a regional test site, here is a tutorial video from Dr Amir Khan that explains how to use it.

Collected swab samples will be sent to a testing lab where they are analysed. The government has said that it’s aiming for drive-through testing results to be sent out within 48 hours, and home testing kit results within 72 hours of collection.

Once you get your results, you’ll be given advice on next steps you need to take.

If you’re an essential worker who is self-isolating and your test turns out to be negative, you can return to work, as long as:

  • you feel well enough
  • you have not had a high temperature for 48 hours
  • the people you live with also test negative

If your test result is positive, or someone you live with tests positive, you won’t be able to return to work and you’ll need to continue to self isolate. Read the NHS advice about how long to self-isolate for.

The announcement of further testing becoming available is a major breakthrough in the COVID-19 crisis. We encourage you to get tested if you’re able to - if not to find out if it’s safe for you to return to work, then for greater peace of mind for you and your family.


Lucy has a wealth of personal finance knowledge, and is one of our in-house experts.