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Coronavirus test: How long does it take to get your test back?

Coronavirus testing has left much to be desired in the UK, as the government has frequently been pulled up on failures to meet a lofty daily target of 100,000, despite regular assurances it is working to bolster capacity. Those who have received tests have also found delays in receiving the results, with some waiting times double what they should be. 

How long does it take to get a coronavirus test back?

Testing is the vital first stage of a coronavirus response, as it allows health officials to isolate cases before they have the opportunity to spread.

The government is conducting thousands of tests every day, roughly 18,000 in total, far off their new target of 100,000.

Currently, only NHS workers may receive the tests at drive-through sites, or those suspected to have the disease in hospital.


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Before the lockdown, the government was also testing others, mostly those returning from affected foreign countries. 

Those accepted for testing would have called 111, before being referred to their local health team.

The team would then tell a potential COVID-19 sufferer to visit a testing site – usually an “isolation booth” at a local hospital.

Once a nurse in protective clothing has taken a cheek swab or other bodily fluid for testing, the sample is sent away to a laboratory.

Test results could return within the same working day, but the government’s goal is to have them back in one to two days.

People have allegedly waited double the expected amount of time, however.

Concerns have arisen tests are taking at least four days to return.

The NHS has said a new testing push should both increase the volume of tests and decrease the time it takes them to come back.

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The health service previously announced it is scaling up its testing capacity to allow for 10,000 daily tests, a target it has now met.

The jump meant daily increase of 8,000 overall at the beginning of the crisis, and a reduction in the time it took results to return.

Officials expected the results to return within 24 hours, allowing people to plan their next treatment steps.

The government has stressed testing is only part of the overall solution, as people need to ensure they are preventing virus circulation themselves.

NHS chief scientific officer Prof Dame Sue Hill said it was vital people follow the government’s hand washing rules.

She added health services are planning “flexible” responses to potential demands.

Professor Hill said: “Every hospital across the country, and the healthcare professionals who run them, are now actively planning to respond flexibly to manage new demand.

“The public can help us to help the country to stay safe by practising good hygiene and washing their hands more often, for at least 20 seconds.”

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  • Posted on April 14, 2020