Since Covid-19 testing first began in the UK, more than 58 million tests have been processed so far. As travel restrictions ease and people can start to plan trips abroad again, the demand for Covid testing will likely increase. A Covid-19 test determines if a person is infected with the virus and whether they and the people they live with need to isolate. Testing plays an important role in helping to limit the spread of the virus and informs local and national decision making.
When to get tested?
Anyone who has a high temperature, has lost their sense of smell or taste or has developed a new, continuous cough should get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test as soon as possible. They should remain in self-isolation until they receive a negative test result. Alternatively, even if you don’t have any symptoms, you should also get tested if you suspect you have been in contact with someone with coronavirus. Covid testing is also required for anyone going into hospital or returning to the UK from abroad. Some people are also required to get regularly tested due to their job, for instance, medical staff, care workers and teachers.
The different types of Covid-19 test
Here are the different types of Covid-19 test currently available depending on the reasons for getting tested:
- Day 2 and 8 tests: Anyone entering the UK is required to quarantine for 10 days and take day two and day eight Covid tests.
- PCR tests: The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is mainly used for Covid symptoms. It takes a swab of the nose and back of the throat to detect a current infection.
- LAMP tests: A loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test is a molecular test that looks for RNA in a patient’s sample using a swab test.
- Lateral flow antigen tests: Antigen tests or lateral flow tests take a swab of your nose or throat to confirm whether you have coronavirus.
- Antibody tests: Antibody tests use a blood sample to determine if you’ve previously had the virus and developed antibodies.
Where to get Covid testing?
There are different ways to get tested for Covid-19, from formal testing centres to home kits which enable people to test for the virus at any time. Even travel companies are offering Covid-19 testing to help get people back in the air. But while there may be many options available, where is the best place to go for Covid testing?
Free home testing kits
According to a study in the British Medical Journal, around 78% of people with Covid-19 don’t have any symptoms, so they could easily spread the virus without even knowing it. Free rapid home testing kits are available to everyone in England. The free tests can be ordered online or collected from a local testing site.
Walk-through testing sites
There are more than 500 testing sites in the UK; however, testing at most walk-through sites is only available for people with symptoms of coronavirus or those who have been asked to get tested by their local authority, public health professional, or doctor.
Private healthcare providers
NHS Covid tests cannot be used for travelling. However, travellers can contact government-approved private healthcare providers such as www.medicspot.co.uk, who supply pre-travel Covid-19 testing packages and fit-to-fly certificates for anyone looking to travel abroad. You can either get tested at a private walk-in Covid test centre or order a home Covid test kit.
Several pharmacies, including Lloyds Pharmacy, Boots and Superdrug, offer Covid-19 testing. However, it is not free. Covid testing prices at pharmacies vary considerably. An in-store test at Superdrug will set you back £120, while Boots charge £99 for an in-store test or £65 for an at-home test. Lloyds Pharmacy charges around £150 to test you on-site, while a home test kit is priced at £119. Both at-home and in-store pharmacy testing takes at least 24 hours to process.
Travel companies and airports
The coronavirus pandemic has been a massive blow to the travel industry. There were 900 million fewer international tourist arrivals in 2020 compared with the year before. Travel companies are keen to get everyone moving again and make it easy and affordable for people to get tested. Most airports offer a drive-through test centre where travellers can get PCR tests. Meanwhile, TUI is currently offering one of the travel industry’s cheapest Covid testing packages, which start at just £20 per person. Jet2 and EasyJet have also teamed up with private healthcare providers to offer discounted Covid testing kits.
As restrictions begin to ease, Covid testing has never been more important. Whether you think you may have Covid symptoms, are hoping to jet off abroad or see more of your friends and family, make sure you know where you can get tested.