How Test and Trace works
The aim of the national NHS Test, Trace, Contain and Engage service is to control the COVID-19 rate of reproduction (R), reduce the spread of infection and save lives.
This will help return life to as normal as possible, for as many as people as possible, in a way that is safe, protects our health and care systems and releases our economy.
This service will play a vital role in providing an early warning if COVID-19 activity is increasing locally, regionally or nationally. This information will then be used to inform the national approach to stop the spread of the virus.
The NHS Test and Trace service:
- provides testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) to find out if they have the virus
- gets in touch with anyone who has had a positive test result to help them share information about any close recent contacts they have had
- alerts those contacts, where necessary, and notifies them they need to self-isolate to help stop the spread of the virus
By following instructions to self-isolate, people who have had close recent contact with someone with coronavirus will be protecting their family, friends, colleagues and other people around them, and will play a direct role in stopping the spread of the virus.
How NHS Test and Trace Works:
Part 1: for someone with coronavirus symptoms
Step1 - isolate: As soon as you experience coronavirus symptoms, you should self-isolate for at least ten days. Anyone else in your household should self-isolate for 14 days from when you started having symptoms.
Step 2 - test: You should order a coronavirus test immediately at nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access.
Step 3 - results: If your test is positive you must complete the remainder of your ten-day self-isolation. Anyone in your household should also complete self-isolation for 14 days from when you started having symptoms. If your test is negative, continue to self-isolate for the 14-day period.
Step 4 - share contacts: If you test positive for coronavirus, the NHS Test and Trace service will send you a text or email alert or call you within 24 hours with instructions of how to share details of people you have been in close, recent contact with and places you have visited. It is important that you respond as soon as possible so that we can give appropriate advice to those who need it. You will be asked to do this online via a secure website or you will be called by one of our NHS contact tracers.
Part 2: for those contacted if you've been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
Step 1 - alert: You will be alerted by the NHS Test and Trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The alert will come either by text or email and you'll need to log on to the NHS Test and Trace website.
Step 2 - isolate: You will be asked to begin self-isolation for up to 14 days, depending on when you last came into contact with the person who has tested positive. It's really important to do this even if you don't feel unwell, because it can take up to 14 days for the symptoms to develop. This will be crucial to avoid you unknowingly spreading the virus to others. Your household doesn't need to self-isolate with you, but they must take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing and washing your hands.
Step 3 - test if needed: If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, other members of your household should self-isolate at home and you should book a coronavirus test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access. If your test is positive you must continue to stay at home for ten days. If your test is negative, you must still complete your 14 day self-isolation period because the virus may not be detectable yet.
Booking a test
Everyone who is showing coronavirus symptoms is eligible to book a test to find out if they have the virus. You can book a home test or drive to a mobile testing unit.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Why should I get tested?
It's important to know if you or a member of our household has COVID-19, so that you will know what steps to take to look after yourself, protect others and know if you are fit to return to work and reduce the spread of the virus.
If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition worsens, or your symptoms do not get better after ten days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
What kind of tests are offered?
The test confirms if an individual currently has the virus. There are two options for individuals to get tested:
- driving to a regional test site
- individuals requesting a home test kit which will be delivered to their home
Why can't more people get tested if they don't have symptoms?
The test is most effective for those who are experiencing coronavirus symptoms. It only checks if you have coronavirus right now. The test will give you confidence to decide whether you are safe to return to work if you don't have the virus, or to remain in isolation if you test positive for coronavirus.
Health and care workers are in a different position, as they are in persistent close contact with a constantly changing number of potentially infectious people. This puts them at higher risk of infection, and this is why we have extended testing to them regardless of whether they have symptoms, because doing this will help protect the people they care for. We recognise that some of these people may feel exposed and therefore want the opportunity to get tested.
If I test negative does that mean I don't have the virus?
If you don't have symptoms but test positive, the test is accurate. If you test negative, the results are less accurate. If you test negative but develop symptoms, you should immediately follow the national guidance. If you don't have symptoms, but someone in your household has tested positive, you should self-isolate and follow the national guidance.
When should I or my household members be tested?
You should be tested in the first three days of coronavirus symptoms appearing, although testing is considered effective up until day five. No testing should be undertaken after day five, unless it's for a specific reason which will be agreed on a case by case basis by local microbiologists. This is because the test is considered most accurate in the first three days of symptoms.
If you are self-isolating because a person you live with has symptoms, you can refer them for testing.
How does the test work?
The test involves taking a swab of the throat and nose. It might be a little uncomfortable but shouldn't hurt. A single swab is used to collect a sample from the back of your throat and your nose. This swab is then placed into a sample tube and securely packaged, where it is sent to the lab for testing.