Find out how the NHS test and trace service works.

There are two parts to the NHS test and trace service.

Part 1: for someone with symptoms of coronavirus

  1. isolate: as soon as you experience coronavirus symptoms you must self-isolate for at least 10 days. Anyone else in your household must self-isolate for 14 days from when you started having symptoms

  2. test: order a test immediately

  3. results: if your test is positive, you must complete the remainder of your 10-day self-isolation. Anyone in your household must also complete self-isolation for 14 days from when you started having symptoms. If your test is negative, you and other household members no longer need to self-isolate

  4. share contacts: if you test positive the NHS test and trace service will send you a text, email or call you with instructions of how to share details of people with whom you have had close, recent contact and places you have visited. It is important that you respond as soon as possible. You will be told to do this online via a secure website or you will be called by a contract tracer. 

From 5 November, if you have tested positive for Covid-19 and the NHS Test and Trace service were unable to speak to you it will be our responsibility to contact you. We will contact you on an 01609 number. You do not need to contact us.

Part 2: if you are contacted by the NHS test and trace service because you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus

  1. alert: you will be alerted by the NHS test and trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The alert will usually come by text, email or phone call. You should then log on to the NHS test and trace website, which is normally the easiest way for you and the service to communicate with each other – but, if not, a trained call handler will talk you through what you must do. Under-18s will get a phone call and a parent or guardian will be asked to give permission for the call to continue

  2. isolate: you will be told to begin self-isolation for 14 days from your last contact with the person who has tested positive. It’s really important to do this even if you don’t feel unwell because, if you have been infected, you could become infectious to others at any point up to 14 days. Your household doesn’t need to self-isolate with you, if you do not have symptoms, but they must take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing and handwashing and avoid contact with you at home

  3. test if needed: if you develop symptoms of coronavirus, other members of your household must self-isolate immediately at home for 14 days and you must book a test. If your test is positive, you must continue to stay at home for at least 7 days and you will be asked about your contacts since they must self-isolate. If your test is negative, you must still complete your 14-day self-isolation period because the virus may not be detectable yet - this is crucial to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

Find out more about how the NHS test and trace service works.

Workplace guidance

The NHS test and trace service will help to manage the risk of the virus re-emerging as restrictions on everyday life are eased, as far as it is deemed safe to do so.

It is vital that employers play their part by:

  • making their workplaces as safe as possible
  • encouraging workers to heed any notifications to self-isolate and supporting them when in isolation

Find out more about the NHS test and trace workplace guidance.

Common questions

Get answers to the most common questions asked about the test and trace service.