How to book a Covid test online and where can I get a coronavirus check?

THE government is ramping up coronavirus testing ahead of winter – promising more affordable and accessible testing for all.

But what are your options for getting a test, what is the best way to book one and what is the government's ambitious new Moonshot testing programme?

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How to book a coronavirus test

You can order a free home test kit from the NHS website.

There are a number of testing sites across the UK which you can book.

You can also get tested in an NHS hospital, at a regional test centre in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Satellite centres, or at mobile testing units.

For more information about those sites, visit the government website.

The government advises to get a test done in the first five days of having symptoms.

Can I book a test online?

You can order a free home test kit from the NHS website.

There are also a number of testing sites across the UK which you can book.

To order a test, head to the government website.

You can get advice from NHS 111 if you're worried or not sure what to do.

Who can get a test?

The government website states that you can get a test for yourself if you have had Covid symptoms or if someone you live with has symptoms.

You can also get tested if you have been told to take a test before surgery or if you work or study in an area where there has been an outbreak.

The government tests are free.

What Covid tests are there?

The 90 minute tests

Made by Oxford Nanopore, the 90 minute test requires a saliva or nasal sample.

A machine can process around 15,000 tests a day and a portable appliance can be moved to where pop-up labs are needed.

DNAnudge uses nasal swabs and these tests are set to be rolled out from September.

The company is supplying 5,000 boxes that process the tests – with a capacity of 15 a day.

You cannot purchase these tests over the counter or online.

Antigen test

At the moment, most labs use the PCR method for antigen testing but antigen tests are being used in hospitals.

It can take days for labs to run the tests, meaning medics often can't tell patients if they have the virus for 72 hours.

Antigens are found on the surface of invading pathogens, including coronavirus.

Testing for antigens can determine whether someone is currently carrying the virus and are actively infectious.

Samples are taken using a swab from deep inside the nose and throat before being sent off to a lab for testing.

A rapid antigen test could be available through Boots or Amazon which involves miniature testing devices plugged into a socket in the wall, and can process swabs within an hour using a technology called isothermal amplification, which can find traces of the genetics of the virus. 

Antibody test

When a person gets infected with antigen, the body starts making specially designed proteins called antibodies in response – as a way to fight the infection.

After they recover, those antibodies float in the blood for months, maybe even years as the body's way of defending itself in case it becomes infected with the virus again.

So an antibody test specifically looks for antibodies which will be able to tell whether you've already been exposed to Covid-19.

The check that has been developed for Covid-19 is a finger-prick blood test, with the samples sent to laboratories and results available within a few days.

The tests are more commonly being offered to frontline NHS workers.

Why is testing key?

While we still don't have a vaccine for the coronavirus, testing is one way to stop the spread and allows local authorities to pick up trends in how the virus moves through a community.

This also helps when it comes to implementing local lockdowns, as has been seen in places such as Leicester or Oldham.

Matt Hancock has said that, going into winter, mass testing is a “really, really important drive that we have across government”. 

A form of mass at-home testing could see up to 10 million tests carried out every day from the comfort of people's own homes.

The proposed Moonshot testing is a new technology which would provide a the saliva test which would not need to be processed in a lab to be developed.

Under the plan, Brits would swab themselves in the morning and be given a 24-hour pass to mingle without having to stick to social distancing rules.

A person could prove they had tested negative by either electronically presenting their result, or showing a printed card.

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