Coronavirus test: how long does it take to get Covid-19 test results?

Scotland has various drive-through testing sites, such as at Edinburgh Airport, Aberdeen Airport and the the Highlands and Islands university campus in Inverness

Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 3:16 pm
Testing is one of the most important methods of gaining control of the virus (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Testing people with coronavirus symptoms and then tracing their contacts is vital to reducing the spread of the virus.

But how long does a Covid-19 test take - and when will you get the results? Here’s what you should know.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

What does the test involve and how long does it take?

The test requires you to get a swab of the inside of your nose and at the back of your throat, using a cotton bud.

It only takes a few minutes to complete.

You can do the swab yourself, or you can have someone else do it for you if you prefer.

Parents and guardians have to swab test children aged 11 or under.

For guidance, the government has issued a video of a young woman doing the test.

There is also an antibody test available to check whether you’ve already had coronavirus. This is a blood test and is not yet widely available.

The antibody test is currently only offered to NHS and care staff, as well as some hospital patients and care home residents.

How long does it take to get the results?

The government website states that it aims to return test results within 48 hours of the swab being taken.

For a home test, the aim is to have results within 72 hours.

Once you’ve had the test done, you and anyone you live with must self isolate until you get your results.

You’ll get a text or an email when your results are ready.

There are three types of results you could get:

- Negative, which means you don’t have coronavirus

- Positive, which means you do have coronavirus

- Unclear, void, borderline or inconclusive, meaning that it’s not possible to say whether you had coronavirus at the time of the test

If you receive an inconclusive test, you should arrange to get another coronavirus test done as quickly as possible while continuing to self isolate.

How do I get a test?

Depending on how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms, you can get a test done at a testing site or at home using a home testing kit.

You can book yourself a test at a test site or order a home test by using the online government service.

If you have issues using the online service, you can get in touch with the helpline to ask for help.

You should not phone the helpline if there are no tests available as they will not be able to offer you a test - the helpline is only for those having issues using the website.

The number is 0300 303 2713 in Scotland. The lines are open between 7am and 11pm.

Alternatively, you can find out more information about getting tested in Scotland via the NHS Inform website here.

In Scotland, drive-through testing sites are conducted at:

- Glasgow Airport

- Edinburgh Airport

- Aberdeen Airport

- Prestwick Airport

- Inverness - University of the Highlands and Islands campus

- Perth – University of Highland and Islands campus

There are also a number of mobile testing units which will be located in towns across Scotland for short periods each time.

Who can get a test?

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a test, no matter their age.

These symptoms are:

- A high temperature

- A new, continuous cough,

- A loss or change in sense of smell or taste

Only people with coronavirus symptoms should arrange to have a test carried out.

Health secretary Matt Hancock spoke out against asymptomatic people taking tests, citing them as the reason for the test shortage affecting the UK.

When should I get a test?

If you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms, you need to get a test done as soon as possible - within five days of having symptoms.

On days one to four of having symptoms, you can get tested at a testing site, or at home. If you’re ordering a home test kit on your fourth day of symptoms, you need to do so before 3pm.

If you’re on day five of symptoms, you need to go to a test site to get testing - it’s too late to order a home test kit at this point unfortunately.

You can also get a test for someone you live with if they have symptoms, however, do not get tests for people you live with who do not have symptoms.

If other people you live with have symptoms, you can order tests for up to three of them.