Coronavirus testing

What Coronavirus testing is available?

The government has been rapidly expanding the sorts of tests that are available for essential workers, particularly those that work in the health and care sector.

The tests that are currently being utilised by the NHS are:

  • Symptomatic testing - where people with the symptoms of Coronavirus are tested to see if they have it;
  • Asymptomatic testing - where people who are not showing the symptoms of Coronavirus are tested to see if they have it, even if they do not appear to be affected;
  • Antibody testing - where people are tested to see if they have indicators in their blood, called antibodies, which show that they have had Coronavirus but have overcome it.

Why are these tests used?

Symptomatic testing is used to identify those who currently have Coronavirus and are showing symptoms of infection. By identifying them, they are able to take appropriate steps to keep themselves and those around them safe. Symptomatic testing also means that if someone has symptoms of Coronavirus but doesn't actually have it, they do not need to follow the guidelines around self-isolating and can, when they are well enough, return to work.

Asymptomatic testing is used to identify individuals who may not realise they have been infected, so that they can take the appropriate precautions to avoid spreading the disease to others.

Antibody testing is used to test if someone has previously had Coronavirus, as they may not have been aware that they did. Testing positive for antibodies does not mean that you have a heightened immunity, or that you can't catch Coronavirus again. The test helps the NHS and Public Health England better understand how the disease has spread through our workforce and communities. 

When should I get tested?

If you are symptomatic for Coronavirus, you need to have a test in the first 5 days of having symptoms. It’s best to apply for the test in the first 3 days as it may take 1 or 2 days to arrange. You should only ask for a test if you have symptoms now.

Asymptomatic is being extended on a routine basis to NHS staff who are most at risk of contracting Coronavirus, and antibody testing is now also available. These tests are being rolled out across organisations in line with 

The tests available to staff working in care homes - and how they can access them - is currently changing. Please talk to your care home manager about what is available to you, and how you can get tested most conventiently. 

Where will my test be?

Health and care staff are now being asked to arrange for their symptomatic test through the national portal here, rather than use hospital-based testing facilities. This is to ensure NHS labs can prioritise patient testing, and asymptomatic and antibody testing for staff.

Asymptomatic and antibody testing for NHS staff will normally take place at one of their employing main sites.   

For symptomatic testing available through the national testing programme, sites in Kent and Medway include:

  • drive through centres at Ebbsfleet International train station and Manston airport,
  • home testing by post, and
  • mobile units operating across the county.

The information on this page may change, so please check regularly for any updates.

You can book a symptomatic test through the national programme

Refer to your local intranet and staff communications for more details about asymptomatic and antibody testing in your organisation. 

You can book a symptomatic test through the national programme

Staff working in GP surgeries may also have access to asypmtomatic and antibody testing. Speak to your practice manager for more details.


From 11 May 2020 there is a new national online portal for care homes to arrange testing for residents and staff. If you are a care home manager find out more at 

If you live or work in a care home, you can access testing either through the national portal or - in some cases - you can be tested at the home you work in. Speak to your care home manager for more details.

The national testing service is also now available to anyone over 5 years old with symptoms, or living with someone with symptoms:

All appointments at national testing services must be booked in advance through the website (The page has furhter information about testing and, towards the bottom, a link to start the online booking process)

Within Kent and Medway the national testing programme offers:

  • A drive through centre at Ebbsfleet International train station 
  • Mobile testing units run by the military (locations on any given day will appear as part of the online booking service)
  • Home testing kits delivered by post

Any questions about bookings with the national testing services should be directed to the national helpline on 0300 303 2713.

Further services within Kent and Medway will be added to this page if they become available.

Please note: people in these groups are not able to use hospital based testing services.

If you are a health or social care employer - including GP surgeries, care homes and pharmacies, you should refer to existing guidance and contact your local testing service if you have any queries.

If you are an employer of other essential workers, there are two ways for you to support your staff to get tests when they need them. You can direct your staff to the national programme and encourage them to book their test individually, using the guidance above. Alternatively, you can use the national employers’ portal to refer your staff into the national testing programme. Please click here for more information.

Please help protect the NHS by following national guidance on social distancing.

Stay alert.
Control the virus.
Save lives.

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