Testing can tell you if you currently have the virus, in order to inform your clinical diagnosis.

Who can be tested

In addition to testing patients presenting symptoms of the virus, the following are also eligible for testing:

  • all essential workers (see the full list here);
  • NHS workers and patients without symptoms;
  • social care workers and residents in care homes;
  • anyone over the age of 65 with symptoms;
  • anyone with symptoms whose work cannot be done from home (for example, construction workers, shop workers, emergency plumbers and delivery drivers); and
  • anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus and lives with any of those identified above.

Testing is currently considered to be most effective within 3 days of symptoms developing.

You can apply for a coronavirus test here:

Apply for a coronavirus test
Apply for a coronavirus (COVID-19) test if you are eligible.

This application link is for a regional test site drive-through test, or a home test kit. These home test kits are initially limited, but it is anticipated that availability will improve.

NHS Information on Drive-Through Testing
NHS Information on using a Test at Home kit

Employer Referral

The employer referral portal allows employers to refer essential workers who are self-isolating either because they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms, for testing.

For most employees, only symptomatic people in the household can be tested. If the employee works in social care, however, the employee can be tested whether symptomatic or asymptomatic.

It is a secure portal for employers to use to upload the full list of names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers.

If referred through this portal, essential workers will receive a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for themselves (if symptomatic) or their symptomatic household member(s) at a regional testing site.

In order to obtain a login, employers of essential workers should email portalservicedesk@dhsc.gov.uk with:

  • organisation name
  • nature of the organisation’s business
  • region
  • names (where possible) and email addresses of the 2 users who will load essential worker contact details

Once employer details have been verified, 2 login credentials will be issued for the employer referral portal.

You can see the most up-to-date version of this guidance here:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): getting tested
Guidance on coronavirus testing, including who is eligible for a test, how to get tested and the different types of test available.