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COVID-19 testing and self-isolation – FAQs

Updated 16 August with new isolation guidance

What are the coronavirus symptoms?
The main symptoms are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

What should I do if I have symptoms? 
Stay at home and begin to self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms start. Arrange to have a test for COVID-19 if you have not already had one. The result of the test will determine how long you must stay at home and self-isolate. Stay at home while you are waiting for a home test kit or a test site appointment. A positive test result means you must complete a 10-day isolation period. If your test is negative, you can stop self-isolating as long as you are well.

Who can get tested?
People with coronavirus symptoms should get a test or those who are advised due to being a close contact of someone who is positive. Remember to stay at home and isolate from others.

What does self-isolation mean?
That you stay at home and avoid contact with other household members as much as possible. Do not have visitors and do not leave the house unless it is to get a test.

I have COVID-19 symptoms. How do I get a test?
Book a test online at https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. if you do not have internet access, call 119 – lines are open from 7am to 11pm. 

There are no tests available online. Should I call the helpline instead?
No, please continue to try again later as there are no extra tests available through the helplines and appointment slots are released by the national team throughout the day, depending on available lab capacity. The council, your GP or your pharmacy cannot provide any additional slots as this is a national process. Please do not attend St Helens Urgent Treatment Centre or A&E as they also cannot provide tests.

I can’t find a suitable appointment slot. What should I do?
If you can’t find a suitable time or location for your test, please try again in a few hours as additional slots are released during the day.

Can I just turn up at a test centre and wait?
No, please do not turn up at a drive or walk-in centre without an appointment. Remember to stay isolated if you have symptoms and book a test from home. Once you've booked, you'll receive a QR code or number that you'll need to show at the centre – you may be turned away without it. If you believe you've booked but haven't received a code/number, please phone 119 to check. 

Can I contact my local councillor or MP to get me a test?
No, there are no tests available from the local council, only through the national route. Remember to stay isolated if you have symptoms and book a test from home.

What should I do if I’ve received a positive test?
Stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started. You will receive a request by text, email or phone to log into the NHS Test and Trace service website and provide information about recent close contacts. If you do not have symptoms but have tested positive for COVID-19, stay at home for 10 days from the day the test was taken. This is because you can still pass the infection to others. If you do develop symptoms after your test, restart the 10-day period from the day your symptoms develop.

What should I do if I receive a negative test?
A negative result means the test did not find COVID-19 at the time the test was taken. If you have a negative test result, you can stop isolating as long as:

Anyone in your household who is isolating because of your symptoms and is not exempt from self isolation rules can also stop isolating. If your test result is negative but you still have symptoms, you may have another virus such as a cold or flu. You should stay at home until you feel well. Seek medical attention if you are concerned about your symptoms.

I've been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive - what should I do?
If you meet the following exemption guidelines, you no longer have to isolate if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

  • If have received both doses of the vaccine, and received the second dose at least two weeks ago
  • If you are under 18
  • If you are on or participated in a MHRA approved clinical trial and had your second dose at least two weeks ago
  • Those who can prove they cannot be vaccinated due to a medical reason.

You are advised though to take a PCR test if you have been a close contact of a positive case. If you do test positive for Covid yourself, even with both vaccinations, you will still have to self-isolate for 10 days as before.

I live in the same household as someone with COVID-19 – what should I do?
If you meet the exemption guidance which came into force on 16 August you are advised to book a PCR test. If the result is positive you should then isolate and stay at home for 10 days. If it is negative you can continue to go about your normal activities.

Does it mean my child can go to school if someone in the household is positive?
If your child is under 18 then they will still be able to attend school even if someone in your household has tested positive for the virus. However, you should look to book a PCR test for them as soon as possible. If the test is positive you child should immediately isolate for 10 days as before.

Does my child still need to test every week?
Your child should ideally still look to be tested weekly with symptom-free lateral flow tests at home as this is this will help protect them and others.

My symptoms are getting worse. What do I do?
If your symptoms worsen, such as you feel breathless and it’s getting worse or you feel you cannot cope with the symptoms at home, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or ring 111.

Where are test centres in St Helens Borough?
There are test centres at Birchley Street car park and Fairclough Street car park in Earlestown. Mobile testing units will be in place periodically and where a surge in cases drives the need for further support in that area. You will be told which centres have appointments available at the time you book a test.

Is there a way I can be prioritised because of my specific circumstances?
All bookings are via the national website (or 119) and there is no prioritisation.

What should I do if someone I work with is showing COVID-19 symptoms?
Tell them to go home, isolate and book a test.

Where can I get help when I’m self-isolating?
St Helens Together can help or signpost you to support. Call 01744 676767. 

If your question isn’t answered here, please refer to the government website for more information.