Which COVID-19 test should I have and how?

As restrictions ease, stay updated on when and how you should take COVID-19 tests...

Which COVID test does what?

There are two types of COVID-19 test:

  • PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests - are for people who have COVID-19 symptoms. The tests are sent to a lab to be analysed for the results and the results are sent to you by a text message.
  • Lateral flow tests (LFT) - these are for people who do not have symptoms, these tests give a quick result with no need for lab analysis. The Government recommends everyone does two of these tests a week.

Which test do I need if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

You will need a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test if you have at least one of these three coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed


  • you’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive
  • you’ve been asked to get a test by a local council or contact tracers
  • a GP or other health professional has asked you to get a test
  • you’ve been asked to get a test to confirm a positive result
  • you need to get a test for someone you live with who has symptoms

PCR tests must be pre-booked via the Gov.UK website or by calling 119. You must not drop in for a PCR test.

Coventry's current testing centres:

  • Moat Street Car Park – drive through testing centre - 9am - 3pm every day
  • Broad Street - walk in testing centre - 8am - 8pm every day          
  • Whitefriars – walk in testing centre - 8am - 8pm every day          
  • Westwood - walk in testing centre - 8am - 8pm every day    

PCR tests kits  can also be posted to you to do at home. Once you have done the test you post it back. You will get the results in the same way.

Remember, if you have symptoms, you and everyone you live with must immediately self-isolate. Do not leave home until you get your test results, except to post a test kit or for a PCR test appointment.

COVID-19 tests if you don't have symptoms

It is recommended by the NHS that everyone does two Lateral Flow (LFT) tests a week now that things have opened up. This is to check to see if you have COVID-19 without showing and symptoms. It also offers some reassurance that you are not unknowingly passing on the virus.

LFT tests are designed to give quick results and do not need to got to a lab to be analysed. The result will show on the test in about 30 minutes. 

You can order LFT tests via the Gov.uk website. Alternatively, you can collect them from local pharmacies and Coventry libararies. The NHS has an online map tool to help you find out where to collect tests from in your local area.

After your test, you should report the result of the test. You should do this whether the test was negative or positive. You can do this via the Gov.uk website.

There are three community testing sites where people can be assisted to test.  There is no need to book an appointment at any of the centres. 

Monday and Fridays: 8.30am – 5.30pm Tuesday – Thursday and Weekends: 10am – 4pm 

Indian Community Centre
243 Cross Road

Market Way
14 Market Way

Old Woodlands School
Broad Lane

Read about our staff's experiences of rapid COVID-19 testing

I want to go on holiday aboard, which test should I have?

Neither PCR tests nor LFT tests can be used as proof of not being infected for foreign travel. Instead you will need to access the test through a paid-for provider.

You can find COVID travel test providers on the Gov.uk website. This site also provides a step-by-step guide of what you need to do before traveling abroad.