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A COVID-19 PCR swab test identifies whether you currently have COVID-19.


If you arrive in England from somewhere outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man you must quarantine for 10 days on arrival. Under the Test to Release scheme you can choose to pay for a private COVID-19 test. If the result is negative, you can end your quarantine.


You cannot take a test until you have been in England for 5 full days or if you have been in a red-list country in the 10 days prior to arrival.


The scheme is voluntary and applies to those quarantining in England only. If you do not want to opt into the Test to Release scheme, you will need to quarantine for 10 days.


What you need to do depends on where you travel in the 10 days before you arrive in England. Please read the full guidance at: How to quarantine when you arrive in England - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).


***This test IS accepted as a test to release certificate (5th day of islation) certificate. You will be required to provide us additional information as per PHE requirements. It is your responsibility to check the latest requirement***

About

The COVID-19 outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation and information, and guidance is therefore updated frequently.


Please visit nhs.uk/coronavirus for the latest health advice or gov.uk/coronavirus for all other information.


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is an enveloped, single-stranded RNA virus of the family Coronaviridae. Coronaviruses share structural similarities and are composed of 16 non-structural proteins and 4 structural proteins: spike (S), envelope (E), membrane (M), and nucleocapsid (N). Coronaviruses cause diseases with symptoms ranging from those of a mild common cold to more severe ones such as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by SARS-CoV-2.


SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted from person-to-person primarily via respiratory droplets, while indirect transmission through contaminated surfaces is also possible. The virus accesses host cells via the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, which is most abundant in the lungs.


The incubation period for COVID-19 ranges from 2 - 14 days following exposure, with most cases showing symptoms approximately 4 - 5 days after exposure. The spectrum of symptomatic infection ranges from mild (fever, cough, fatigue, loss of smell and taste, shortness of breath) to critical. While most symptomatic cases are not severe, severe illness occurs predominantly in adults with advanced age or underlying medical comorbidities and requires intensive care. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a major complication in patients with severe disease. Critical cases are characterized by e.g., respiratory failure, shock and/or multiple organ dysfunction, or failure.

Procedure

This type of test usually involves collecting a ‘swab’ sample from the nose, mouth, and/or throat. A swab is a small piece of soft, absorbent material on a plastic stick.


You may collect swab sample at home yourself (this can also be referred to as ‘self-sampling’), or you can get our healthcare professional to do it during the visit at home. The sample is then sent to a laboratory to check for genetic material from the virus.

Methodology

The samples are processed via our referral laboratory Medical Diagnosis Ltd.


The qualitative real-time PCR detection technology is used. You can expect the following accuracy of the test:

  • Specificity: >99%
  • Sensitivity: >99%

Interpretation

If the test is negative, you can stop self-isolating as soon as you get the result.


If the test is positive you need to self-isolate for another 10 days. Count the 10 days starting from the day you took the test, or from when you first had symptoms if that is earlier.


If you’re living or staying with someone in the UK, they should also self-isolate for 10 days, starting from the day you took the test.


If the test is inconclusive you also need to self-isolate for another 10 days. You can stop self-isolating if you take another test with an eligible private provider and the result is negative.


Clinical interpretation:

If a patient tests positive, she or he will be informed by the laboratory analysing the test and should:

  • immediately self-isolate (or continue to self-isolate if they are already doing so) for ten days from the point of developing symptoms, if they have symptoms, or ten days from the date of the test if they do not.
  • share information promptly about their recent contacts when they are contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service so that Test and Trace can alert those contacts if they need to self-isolate.
If they test negative for the virus, this means they are at low risk of having COVID-19 at that moment in time. It does not mean they are definitely negative for COVID-19 nor that they are no longer at risk of catching it in future. A patient does not need to self-isolate if their test is negative, as long as:
  • no other member of their household has symptoms or has tested positive
  • no one in their support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive
  • the NHS Test and Trace has not told them to self-isolate
  • they feel well – if they feel unwell, they should stay at home until they feel better.
See more details on what a virus test result means.


If somebody subsequently develops symptoms after receiving a negative result after being tested when not displaying symptoms, they must self-isolate and be re-tested.


Test results are reported to PHE. All medical practitioners have a statutory duty to report positive results of COVID-19 virus tests under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010.


Data protection does not prevent the necessary and proportionate use of personal data for COVID-19 response. Data protection law has built-in flexibility to ensure it does not prevent appropriate health and safety measures being implemented in the workplace or action taken in the overwhelming public interest. Nevertheless, there are important data protection considerations to take into account when processing personal data, particularly health data. The ICO has set out FAQs on data collection and data protection relating to COVID-19 that provide further information.

Limitations

No test is 100% reliable. The results are also only relevant to that sample at that point in time.


It’s important to understand the limitations of COVID-19 tests, because an incorrect or misinterpreted result can lead to a false sense of reassurance. For example, if you are infected with the virus but the test you use produces a false negative result (it says you do not have the virus even though you do), you may unknowingly spread the virus to other people or not seek the treatment you may need.

Disclaimer

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario. Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis. The sample processing will be performed by Medical Diagnosis Ltd. VisitHealth is not liable for delays caused by events out of our control. Please plan sufficient time for processing.

How it works

  • Book a visit

    Contact us via our website, email or phone to book your visit. A visit fee will apply depending on your location, regardless of required service(s).

  • Meet our medic

    We come to you on the day your visit is booked. Our medic will have all the required equipment to provide medical care to you and your family at your home, work, or a place of your choice.

  • Get the results

    We deliver results electronically via email, or by post to you and your doctor, if requested. Our medics can liaise with your doctor to help you get the care you need.