When should I take a COVID test?

With new Covid symptoms added to the official guidance and free tests scrapped; is taking a COVID test no longer necessary?

Free covid tests have been discontinued in England for nearly everyone as part of the government’s ‘living with Covid’ scheme. As a result, when somebody wants to take a Covid test, they must purchase it from a private provider.

Furthermore, the official guidance concerning Covid safety measures has also been reviewed, and all restrictions have been dropped in England. This includes foreign travel restrictions.

Free tests for Covid have been scrapped, and there are no longer mandatory quarantine restrictions. So, when is it appropriate to actually take a test and under what circumstances must you self-isolate?

Read more: England’s new plan for ‘living with Covid’

Infographic for When to take a COVID Test

Do you need a Covid test?

There is no official guidance on when one must take a Covid test—all Covid-related advice points towards avoiding the further spread of the virus and staying safe.

However, you might still want to take a test under certain circumstances, especially considering the increasing number of Covid cases around the country at the moment.

While there are multiple scenarios for which taking a Covid test may be sensible, we believe the following instances make taking a test vital:

  • If you begin to experience symptoms of Covid
  • If someone you live with becomes ill with evident symptoms of Covid
  • After you have been in close contact with somebody who is infected with Covid
  • Before you are about to meet an individual who is at higher risk from Covid
  • Before attending a crowded event in an indoor space

Additionally, it is vital to keep in mind that the UK government has expanded the official list of Covid symptoms to include nine more.

Non-Travel Lateral Flow tests Digital Illustration of COVID-19

The new Covid symptoms in the UK

While the World Health Organization (WHO), along with many other countries, have been employing a more extensive list of Covid symptoms, the UK stuck with the top 3 for the longest time:

  • High temperature or fever
  • New and persistent cough
  • Change in smell or taste

These were the symptoms people in England had to have in order to meet the criteria for free Covid testing.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) revised the official list of Covid symptoms to include several more in addition to the existing ones. The list of symptoms received the update on 1 April, the same day free tests were discontinued in England.

The following comprises all the Covid symptoms as defined by the UKHSA:

  • New and continuous cough
  • Change in /loss of smell or taste
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Exhaustion/feelings of tiredness
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Being sick or feeling sick
According to the NHS: ‘The symptoms are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu.’

Therefore, taking a Covid test if you are experiencing some or all of the symptoms is crucial. One test may be the difference between knowing whether you are infected with Covid or the common cold.

Keep reading: What are the new Covid symptoms?

Fit to Fly PCR Tests for Foreign Travel

What should I do if I test positive?

Although there are no longer rules in England for people who have tested positive to enter mandatory quarantine, the NHS website does provide some suggestions.

If you receive a positive result from a Covid test:

  • Try to stay home and avoid contact with others for 5 days
  • Avoid meeting individuals who are at higher risk of serious illness from Covid for 10 days

The suggested time of avoiding contact with others and staying at home starts from one day after you did the test.

If the person testing positive is aged 18 years or younger, they must stay at home and avoid contact with others for 3 days.

Read more: Are you in danger of catching Covid a second time? Family Enjoying the New Rules in England

What if a person I live with tests positive?

You will be more prone to catch Covid if a member of your household is infected. However, if you came in close contact with a Covid-positive individual, it could take up to 10 days before you develop an infection yourself.

Essentially, you can transmit the virus to others even before you have developed any symptoms, if at all. The NHS outlines a few steps you can take to reduce Covid transmission in such cases:

  • Avoid contact with the Covid-positive person as much as possible
  • Avoid meeting individuals who are at higher risk of serious illness from Covid
  • Minimise contact with others in crowded and/or indoor locations
  • Wear a face mask with more than 1 layer when in close contact with other people
  • Regularly, use hand sanitiser or wash your hands with soap


VIVO Clinic has added non-travel Lateral Flow tests to its range of Covid testing services. Follow the link below to get them delivered straight to your doorstep.

Lateral flow tests for £2.95/unit