Everyone in Northern Ireland with symptoms of COVID-19 is eligible for a free test.   

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature); OR
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual); OR
  • a loss of or change in sense of smell or taste.

You should get tested in the first three days of coronavirus symptoms appearing, although testing is considered effective up until day five.

There are two ways to get a coronavirus test: going to a testing centre or getting a test kit delivered to your home.

Testing for all symptomatic individuals in Northern Ireland can be booked at www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test

In Northern Ireland, the following groups of people can access priority testing:

  • essential workers;
  • anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus and lives with an essential worker.

Essential workers and those who live with an essential worker can arrange a test here.

If you have questions about a test you’ve booked or are having trouble booking a test, you can call 119.

How do I use the test?

The test involves you taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat. You can find guidance on this including a video here.

Instructions for the test kit with translations can be found here.

You can watch a video explaining the process for drive-through testing here.

If a child is to be tested, parents/guardians will need to swab the child. Instructions on how to use a test kit on a child are available here. You can also watch a video on swabbing your child here.

Testing for care home residents and staff

Information on testing for care home residents and staff is available here.

Testing centres

Testing for essential workers and the general public is currently conducted in fixed drive-through sites operating at:

  • SSE test centre, Odyssey Car park, Belfast BT3 9QQ
  • City of Derry Rugby Club test centre, Judges Rd, Derry/ Londonderry, BT47 6LN
  • Craigavon MOT centre, Craigavon, BT63 5RY
  • St Angelo Airport, 62 Killadeas Road, Trory, Enniskillen BT94 2FP

All centres are open 9.30am – 5.30pm, seven days a week

Please note: you are able to make a booking for the following day’s testing from 8pm the day before testing. You can also book from 13.00 until closure on morning of booking a same day test.

In addition to the four fixed sites, mobile testing units operate across the province.

Mobile testing units provide a temporary testing site that can be set up quickly in response to local demand.

The mobile testing units are currently at the following locations:

Ballymena: Ballymena Showgrounds, Warden Street, Ballymena, BT43 7DR

Lisburn: Lagan Valley Leisureplex, 18 Lisburn Leisure Park, Lisburn, BT28 1LP 

Limavady: North West Regional College, 11 Greystone Rd, Limavady BT49 0ND

The mobile testing units are open from 10.30am to 3.30pm and can be booked through the normal booking channels. You will see the locations across Northern Ireland as you book a test or alternatively ask staff if you call 119.

Receiving your results

You will receive your results by text or email within 72 hours of taking the test. Please ensure you enter the correct contact details when you register.

What happens to the test results

Results are communicated to individuals directly by email and will be fed back into public health records in due course.

Home tests

If you require a kit to be completed at home you can request one at www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test

Please note there is limited availability and to help with securing a kit on the day required please book between 8am and 9am.

Once you order a home-test kit, the test kit should be delivered the next day.

You will then book Royal Mail courier to arrive the day after to collect your swab and take it to the lab.

Each kit comes with comprehensive instructions to guide you through how to administer the swab yourself. Test kits come with further instructions and a short video to take you through the process step by step.  

Protection of personal data 

Amazon and Royal Mail are the commercial partners who are delivering home testing nationwide. They do not have access to the results or any health data. 

Test results and staying safe

Even if an individual has had a negative result, it’s important to still apply caution. If everyone with symptoms who was tested in their household receives a negative result, they can return to work if their work cannot be done from home, providing they are well enough, and have not had a fever for 48 hours.

If, after returning to work, they develop symptoms they should follow the guidance and self-isolate. Employees should discuss their return to work with their employing organisation.

The test will confirm if a person – who is showing symptoms of the virus – actually has it. It will not confirm whether they have had it and have now recovered.

It is vital those who test negative continue to follow guidance including precautions related to social distancing. 

The number for the NHS contact centre for results enquiries is 119.

Additionally there is a comprehensive FAQ on Randox’s website: www.randoxhealth.com/register-kit-faq

Privacy information

Privacy information on COVID-19 testing can be found here.

Testing for HSC staff members

HSC staff should contact their line manager for details on how to arrange testing. Some Trusts are also able to facilitate testing for primary care staff in their testing facilities.

Other testing

We would advise caution about obtaining testing from non-governmental sources. A positive or negative test will not be recognised by the HSC and will not change the advice given. You will still have to observe recommended isolation periods.