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NHS Test and Trace

NHS Test and Trace

NHS Test and Trace is a national programme which ensures that anyone who develops symptoms of Covid-19 can be tested quickly. It also helps trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and notify them so that they can stay at home (self-isolate) if needed and help stop the spread of the virus.

How NHS Test and Trace works

If you have symptoms of Covid-19, you must immediately self-isolate and ask for a coronavirus test through the NHS or by calling NHS 119.

You must take the following steps if you have coronavirus symptoms or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told that you have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19:

1.  If you have one or more symptoms of Covid-19, which are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell, you must immediately self-isolate.

2.  You then must book a test through NHS.UK or call NHS 119. Testing is available for anyone who has symptoms. Children under the age of five will need a clinical assessment first. Please call your GP or NHS 111 to arrange this.

3.  If you test positive, you will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace who will help you identify who you have been in close contact with and will ask you for their contact details. You must isolate for 10 days. People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has a positive test must:

  • Stay at home for ten days if they are unvaccinated
  • If fully vaccinated or aged between 5 and 18 years and 6 months, they are not required to self-isolate from Tuesday 14 December 2021, but will be told to take daily lateral flow tests for 7 days. These rules also apply to people who can prove they are unable to be vaccinated for clinical reasons, and for people taking part (or who have taken part) in an approved clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine. Anyone whose rapid test comes back positive or who develops Covid-19 symptoms should self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test to verify the result. If the PCR result comes back positive, contacts must self-isolate for 10 days from the day they took the positive rapid test or developed symptoms
  • Under 5s are exempt from self-isolation and do not need to take part in daily rapid lateral flow testing

More information on when a contact of a positive case needs to isolate can be found here.

A test for Covid-19 usually involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud.

By playing your part, you will directly help to contain Covid-19. Testing not only protects you, but your friends and family.

How is being a contact defined?

A close contact is a person who has been in close and recent contact to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 while they were infectious. These are the people who NHS Test and Trace will contact to advise them they have been close to someone who has tested positive and give them advice on what steps they should take to contain potential further cases of the virus.

Close contacts include:

  • Household contacts
  • Sexual partners
  • A person who has had face-to-face contact (within one metre) with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. This includes being coughed on, having a face-to-face conversation within one metre, having skin-to-skin physical contact, or contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • A person who has been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 for more than 15 minutes
  • A person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for Covid-19

How the NHS Test and Trace service will contact you

You will be contacted by email, text or phone.

Text messages will come from  'NHStracing' and calls will come from 0300 0135000.

Children under 18 will be contacted by phone wherever possible and asked for their parent or guardian’s permission to continue the call.

You may be asked to sign in to the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing website

How to spot fake contact tracers

The NHS Test and Trace service (also known as contact tracers) will never ask you:

1. for bank details or payments

2. for details of any other accounts, such as social media

3. to set up a password or PIN number over the phone

4. to call a premium rate number, such as those starting 09 or 087

5. for anyone to visit you at home

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolating means staying at home to prevent spreading Covid-19 to other people and the wider community, particularly those at increased risk such as the elderly and people with existing health conditions.

When self-isolating, you must remain at home. Do not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis.

Nobody should go out even to buy food or other essentials, and any exercise must be taken within your home.

You should also avoid contact as much as possible with other members of your household.

More advice on self-isolation and specific circumstances is available on the government website.

From Monday 28 September 2020 it became a legal requirement to self-isolate if you are told to by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you do not self-isolate.

You need to self-isolate if you:

  • Test positive for Covid-19
  • Are unvaccinated and live in the same household as someone who has tested positive or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and informed that you have been in recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 (if you are fully vaccinated, you may take lateral flow tests for seven days after being notified you are contact instead of having to self-isolate)
  • Experience symptoms of Covid-19 and are in the process of arranging a test
  • Are unvaccinated and have arrived in England from abroad
  • Are fully vaccinated and arrive in England from abroad and are awaiting the result of your Day 2 PCR test (if you receive a negative result, you may then stop self-isolating)

How long to self-isolate

If you test positive for Covid-19 you must self-isolate for 10 days, from when symptoms began or if no symptoms, from the date you took the test.

If you live with someone who has tested positive and you are unvaccinated you must self-isolate for 10 days. From Tuesday 14 December, fully vaccinated people should take daily lateral flow tests for 7 days and so do not need to immediately isolate. However, if the PCR is positive, they must self-isolate for 10 days from the day they took the test or developed symptoms.

If you are informed that you have been in close recent contact with someone who has tested positive (who is not a household contact) you should:

  • If unvaccinated: self-isolate for 10 days from your last contact with them and remain alert in case you develop symptoms
  • If fully vaccinated: you do not need to self-isolate but you should take daily lateral flow tests for 7 days

If you do develop any of the symptoms of Covid-19, then you must book a test.

If you return to England from a country abroad:

  • If coming from a red list country (guidance here), you must quarantine for a full 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel even if you are fully vaccinated and you must take a coronavirus test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of quarantining – these are included in your hotel package
  • If vaccinated and coming from a country which is not on the red list, you must book and pay for a COVID-19 PCR test which is to be taken in the 48 hours after you arrive in England. You must quarantine in your home or the place you are staying until you receive a negative test result. If the test result is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 full days
  • If unvaccinated and coming from a country which is not on the red list, you must quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 full days. You must also book and pay for day 2 and day 8 COVID-19 PCR tests. You must continue to self-isolate, even if you receive a negative test result in this time, this is because you could still be incubating the disease.

Anyone who experiences symptoms of Covid-19 must self-isolate and book a test.

You can book a postal test kit or arrange an appointment at your nearest drive through or walk through testing centre. You should only leave home when self-isolating to get a Covid-19 test and should not use public transport. Tests can be ordered online or by calling 119.

Help when self-isolating

If you require help with buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication, or walking a dog, you should ask friends or family. Alternatively, you can order your shopping online and medication by phone or online. Delivery drivers should not come into your home, so make sure you ask them to leave items outside for collection.

Support is available from the council for residents self-isolating. This includes support arranging food and medication deliveries. Find out more about support available from the council.

Find out more about the Test and Trace support payment. This is a payment that can be made to eligible individuals who were required by law to self-isolate from 28 September 2020.