How long do PCR Covid test results take?
6th September 2021

IF you've got a new persistent cough, a high temperature or a loss of taste or smell then the NHS says you can get a free PCR test.

PCR tests are the gold standard and are sent off to a lab to be properly processed – unlike lateral flow tests that can be completed at home in less than an hour.

What is a PCR Covid test?

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) are swabs that can be taken at a drive-through centre or can be sent to you at home.

It is sent to a laboratory where a lab technician looks for genetic material of the virus using highly specialised equipment.

The PCR tests are much better at finding very small amounts of the virus, especially early during an infection.

So these are used primarily in people who have Covid symptoms.

How does it work?

It uses a long cotton bud, which takes a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat.

PCR tests – which are mainly for people with Covid symptoms – are sent to a lab to be checked.

If you have any of these three Covid symptoms, you should get a PCR test as soon as possible: a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed.

You can order an NHS PCR test kit to be sent to your home.

How long do results take from a PCR Covid test?

Most people typically get their result the next day, but it can take up to three days.

Usually the result is sent to you via text or email when it's ready. If you have the NHS Covid-19 app, the result might come to you that way.

If you do not get your results by day six, then call 119. Calls to 119 are free from a landline or mobile phone. Lines are open from 7am to 11pm.

At very busy periods the labs have been swamped with tests and it has taken longer to get a result.

Do I have to self-isolate after I test positive for Covid-19?

If you test positive for Covid, you have to self isolate.

It's a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive or are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you don't.

You should not leave the house for any reason, including for work or to go to the shops.

Self-isolate immediately if you have symptoms or have had a positive test result.

If you have symptoms, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started, if earlier than when you took your test.

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