Read the following before ordering a COVID test online. Please note England and Northern Ireland have different symptom and home test ordering timelines than Scotland and Wales. We have outlined, based on the latest government information, who qualifies to order a free COVID home test kit or to get one at a testing site. If you wait too long while having symptoms, your eligibility for a home test kit could expire.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you can get a free COVID-19 test, including a home test kit. However, it is crucial that you need to get the test done in the first 8 days of having symptoms. On days 1 to 7, you can get tested at a site or at home. If you’re ordering a home test kit on day 7, do it by 3pm. However, on day 8, you need to go to a test site – it’s too late to order a home test kit.
Who can get a free test: England and Northern Ireland
You can only get a free NHS test if at least one of the following applies:
- you have a high temperature
- you have a new, continuous cough
- you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed
- you’ve been asked to by a local council
- you’re taking part in a government pilot project
You can also get a test for someone you live with if they have symptoms.
If you’re going into hospital
You may need to get tested if you’re due to have surgery or a procedure. The hospital will arrange this for you. Contact your hospital department if you have any questions.
Who cannot get a free test
You cannot get a free NHS test unless you have symptoms, have been asked to by your local council, live in England and have been told to by your hospital, or are taking part in a government pilot project.
This applies even if:
- you live with someone who has coronavirus
- you’ve had close contact with someone who has coronavirus
- you’ve come to the UK from a high-risk country
- you’re planning to leave the country
- your employer or school has asked you to get a test
You can pay for a private test. Do not use this service.
Scotland and Wales
You need to get the test done in the first 5 days of having symptoms. On days 1 to 4, you can get tested at a site or at home. If you’re ordering a home test kit on day 4, do it by 3pm. On day 5, you need to go to a test site – it’s too late to order a home test kit.
Get help applying
If no tests are available online, do not call helplines to get a test. No extra tests are available through the helplines.
If you have other problems using the online service, call:
- 119 if you’re in England, Wales or Northern Ireland
- 0300 303 2713 if you’re in Scotland
Lines are open 7am to 11pm.
Stay at home if you have symptoms
If you’re getting a test because you have symptoms, you and anyone you live with must self-isolate until you get your result. This also applies to anyone in your support bubble (where someone who lives alone – or just with their children – can meet people from 1 other household).
You must also self-isolate if you cannot get a test.
What the test involves
The test involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud.
You can do the swab yourself (if you are aged 12 or over) or someone can do it for you. Parents or guardians have to swab test children aged 11 or under.
Getting a test for someone else
If other people you live with have symptoms, you can order tests for up to 3 of them. If you’re applying for someone who’s 13 or over, check that they’re happy for you to get a test for them.
If you need medical advice about your symptoms
Get help at:
- England: NHS 111 online coronavirus service
- Scotland: NHS inform
- Wales: NHS 111 Wales
- Northern Ireland: get advice from a GP or GP out-of-hours service
Call 999 if you feel very unwell or think there’s something seriously wrong.