Testing for COVID-19

Everyone over five years of age in Northern Ireland with symptoms of coronavirus is now eligible for testing.   


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When to get tested

You should get tested in the first 3 days of coronavirus symptoms appearing, although testing is considered effective up until day 5.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature); OR
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual); OR
  • a loss of or change in sense of smell or taste.

No testing should be undertaken after day 5, unless it’s for a specific reason which will be agreed on a case by case basis by local microbiologists.

If you have questions about a test you've booked or are having trouble booking a test, you can call 119.


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How to arrange a test

If you are a HSC staff member with symptoms, or live with someone with symptoms, click here.

If you are a primary care worker with symptoms, or live with someone with symptoms, click here.

If you are an essential worker with symptoms, or live with someone with symptoms, click here.

Anyone else with symptoms should click here.


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Testing for HSC staff members

HSC staff should contact their line manager for details on how to arrange testing.


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Testing for primary care workers

Referrals for testing for primary care staff can be booked on line at www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test-essential-workers

Primary care staff refers to all staff working in: 

  • GP Practices, GP out-of-hours services and COVID-19 centres
  • Community pharmacies
  • General Dental Service practices and urgent dental care centres
  • Optometrists
  • Care home staff and domiciliary workers                                                                                                                           

Some Trusts are also able to facilitate testing for primary care staff in their testing facilities.


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Testing for the members of the public

Testing for all symptomatic individuals in Northern Ireland can be booked at www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test

If you have questions about a test you've booked or are having trouble booking a test, you can call 119.


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Testing for essential workers

Testing is prioritised for essential workers who are self-isolating because they are symptomatic, or have household members who are symptomatic, to help enable essential workers to return to work as soon as safely.

Testing is also available to symptomatic people who live with essential workers.

Essential workers includes workers in:

  • Roles necessary for critical national infrastructure to continue to operate (for example postal services, utility, transport sectors, voluntary support staff, financial services, staff providing child care for essential or key workers);
  • Roles necessary to support the health and wellbeing of the community directly (for example funeral directors, refuse collectors, medical, energy, utility, transport and food supplies (including retail and supermarkets), food production, agriculture and food sectors, supply pinch points or volunteers delivering food and essential items to vulnerable people).
  • Any government department;
  • The Health and Safety Executive.

This list is not exhaustive but intended to provide an indication of the type of worker within each group. Please click here for further guidance.

How to arrange essential worker testing

An online employer portal has been established to improve the process of booking tests. To get a login, employers of essential workers should email portalservicedesk@dhsc.gov.uk 

You must supply two email addresses that will primarily be used to load essential worker contact details. Once employer details have been verified, two login credentials will be issued for the employer referral portal.

Employers should then login at https://coronavirus-invite-testing.service.gov.uk/ to make referrals.

After they have entered their details on the portal, individuals will receive a text or email the same day inviting them to either book an appointment, or offering a home self-testing kit. 

Those using self-referral can indicate their preference prior to registering details.

Self-referral portal

Essential workers can go to the self-referral portal at: https://self-referral.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk  to sign up if you or a member of your family are symptomatic.


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Testing centres

Testing for non-HSC essential workers and the general public is currently conducted in drive-through sites operating at:

  • SSE test centre, Odyssey Car park, Belfast BT3 9QQ
  • City of Derry Rugby Club test centre, Judges Rd, Derry/ Londonderry, BT47 6LN
  • Craigavon MOT centre, Craigavon, BT63 5RY
  • St Angelo Airport, 62 Killadeas Road, Trory, Enniskillen BT94 2FP

All centres are open 10am – 4pm, seven days a week.

In addition to the three fixed sites at Belfast, Craigavon and Derry/ Londonderry, we now have a mobile testing unit based at the Ulster University, Cromore Road, Coleraine BT52 1SA.

The mobile testing unit provides a temporary testing site that can be set up quickly in response to local demand.

The mobile testing unit is open from 10.30am to 3.30pm. Carpark barriers will be left open during these times.

Instructions when you visit a test centre

To avoid risk of cross-contamination, our centre is a drive-through. You must arrive by car (not on foot, via public transport, by taxi or by any other means). Only people from your household may be in the car with you.

  • Do not exit the car at any point whilst on site.
  • Please note, bathroom facilities will not be available.
  • When you arrive at the main gate DO NOT lower your windows.
  • Once you are on site, we will use the car registration that you have provided in advance or at security to identify you. This is how you gain access to the site
  • You will be directed to a testing lane, where a member of our trained National Testing Team will instruct you to lower your window to carry out a coronavirus test.
  • Please note that your test will be self-administered – you will be directed by a member of staff on site.
  • You will then be given instructions on how to use your phone to scan your test kit’s barcode.

Watch a video explaining the process for drive-through testing:

When you are at the test station please:

  • park with your handbrake on;
  • turn your engine off;
  • turn your radio off;
  • have your phone ready for after your test, to scan the barcode of the test kit.

Receiving your results

You will receive your results by email within 72 hours of taking the test. Please ensure you enter the correct contact details when you register.

What happens to the test results

Results under the UK testing programme are communicated to individuals directly by email and are intended to be fed back into public health records in due course.


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Home tests

If you require a kit to be completed at home you can request one at www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test

Please note there is limited availability and to help with securing a kit on the day required please book between 8am and 9am.

How home testing works  

After you complete a self-referral and order a home-test kit, the test would then be delivered the next day.

A Royal Mail courier will arrive the day after to collect it and take it to the lab. The aim is that results will then be received via email within 72 hours. 

Each kit comes with comprehensive instructions to guide you through how to administer the swab yourself. Test kits come with further instructions and a short video to take you through the process step by step.  

Protection of personal data 

Amazon and Royal Mail are the commercial partners who are delivering home testing nationwide. They do not have access to the results or any health data. 


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How to take the test

The test procedure is a ‘self-test’ process for all tests completed through the national testing programme.

Please click here for a video and instructions for how to take swab samples for COVID-19 testing.


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Test results and staying safe

Even if an individual has had a negative result, it’s important to still apply caution. If everyone with symptoms who was tested in their household receive a negative result, they can return to work if their work cannot be done from home, providing they are well enough, and have not had a fever for 48 hours.

If, after returning to work, they develop symptoms they should follow the guidance and self-isolate. Employees should discuss their return to work with their employing organisation.

The test will confirm if a person - who is showing symptoms of the virus - actually has it. It will not confirm whether they have had it and have now recovered.

It is vital those who test negative continue to follow guidance including precautions related to social distancing. 

The number for the NHS contact centre for results enquiries is 119.

Additionally there is a comprehensive FAQ on Randox’s website: www.randoxhealth.com/register-kit-faq


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Privacy information

Privacy information on COVID-19 testing can be found here.


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Other testing

We would advise caution about obtaining testing from non-governmental sources. A positive or negative test will not be recognised by the HSC and will not change the advice given. You will still have to observe recommended isolation periods.

Please be aware that the HSC is not offering testing to people in the community. If a person calls at your front door offering to test you, do not allow them to enter your home. Close and lock the door. Inform the police.   


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