This site is intended for health professionals only


Testing: Information for patients on what their Covid-19 swab test result means



What your coronavirus test result means

If you’ve had a test to check if you have coronavirus (Covid-19), there are three types of result you can get:

  • negative
  • positive
  • unclear, void, borderline or inconclusive

Important

You and anyone you live with must stay at home (self-isolate) until you get your result.

Negative test result

A negative result means you did not have coronavirus when the test was done.

You can stop self-isolating if you test negative, as long as:

  • everyone you live with who has coronavirus symptoms also tests negative – keep self-isolating if someone in your home tests positive, or has symptoms and has not been tested
  • you feel well – if you still feel unwell, you may have a different illness that could spread to other people, so stay at home until you’re feeling better

If you have diarrhoea or you’re being sick, stay at home until 48 hours after they’ve stopped.

To note:

The advice is different if you’ve been told by NHS Test and Trace that you’ve been in contact with someone who has coronavirus.

You may still need to self-isolate if you test negative.

What to do when you stop self-isolating

When you stop self-isolating, you can go out for things like going to work if you cannot work from home.

Follow the general advice about social distancing, such as staying at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with.

If you’re a health or care worker, check with your employer before going back to work.

To note:

You could still get coronavirus after testing negative. Read about what to do if you get symptoms of coronavirus again.

Positive test result

A positive result means you had coronavirus when the test was done.

If you get a positive result, you and anyone you live with must keep self-isolating.

If you have symptoms, self-isolate for at least seven days from when your symptoms started. Anyone you live with who does not have symptoms must self-isolate for 14 days.

Read more about how long to self-isolate.

To note:

In England, you’ll get an email, text or call from the NHS Test and Trace service if you test positive. You’ll be asked where you’ve been recently and who you’ve been in close contact with.

This will help the NHS contact anyone who may have caught the virus from you.

Find out about being contacted by NHS Test and Trace after testing positive for coronavirus.

Unclear, void, borderline or inconclusive test result

An unclear, void, borderline or inconclusive result means it’s not possible to say for certain if you had coronavirus when the test was done.

If this happens, you may be advised to ask for another coronavirus test. Do this as soon as possible, as the test is most accurate within a few days of your symptoms starting.

If you’re not able to have another test, you and anyone you live with must keep self-isolating.

If you have symptoms, self-isolate for at least 7 days from when your symptoms started. Anyone you live with who does not have symptoms must self-isolate for 14 days.

Read more about how long to self-isolate.

If you need medical advice about your symptoms, go to:

Call 999 if you feel very unwell or think there’s something seriously wrong.

Source:  NHS, What your coronavirus test result means [updated on 1 June]

Related Articles

Honourable mentions

18 September 2020

Some changes to PulseToday

14 September 2020