Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing FAQ


Covid-19 symptoms and testing

Testing for Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Testing people to see if they have COVID-19 is really important. It allows us to identify people who have the virus and stop them from spreading it to others.

There are two types of test:

Testing for people who have symptoms (Symptomatic)

It is important that if you have symptoms you self-isolate and book a PCR test. This is a legal requirement.

Symptomatic   FAQ

Testing for people without symptoms (Asymptomatic)

If you live or work in Bolton, please get tested twice a week. I in 3 people don’t have symptoms but can still spread the virus.

Asymptomatic   FAQ


Coronavirus test assets and downloads

Coronavirus testing downloads

Testing guides (available in different languages), testing kit registration process, enhanced testing and more

Covid-19 test downloads


Testing for people who have symptoms (PCR)

If you have symptoms you will need a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) COVID-19 test, if you have a question about them, please read on for more information.

You are required by law to self-isolate if you are told to do so, or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms.

We’ve also put together our dedicated Self-Isolation FAQs to help you do so.

Who can get tested?

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a test. Remember to stay at home and isolate from others.

What are the Coronavirus symptoms?

The main symptoms are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

I have Covid symptoms how do I get a test?

Book a test online at - if you do not have Internet access call 119, lines are open 7am to 11pm.

If you cannot get to a test site, you can also order a test online at

There are no tests available online should I call the helpline instead?

No, please continue to try again later as there are no extra tests available through the helplines and appointment slots are released by the national team throughout the day, depending on available lab capacity.  Please don't go to the hospital A&E, to the council, your GP oryour pharmacy as they cannot provide tests or any additional slots as this is a national process.

Alternatively, you can order a test online for home delivery at

I can’t find a suitable appointment slot?

If you can’t find a suitable time or location for your test please try again in a few hours as additional slots are released during the day.

Alternatively, you can order a test online for home delivery at

Can I just turn up at a test centre and wait?

No, please do not turn up at a drive or walk-in in centre without an appointment. Remember to stay isolated if you have symptoms and book a test from home.

Can I contact my local councillor / local MP and they will get me a test?

No, there are no tests available from the local council, only through the national route. Remember to stay isolated if you have symptoms and book a test from home.

I’ve heard some areas are having test kits handed out can I go there to pick one up or get someone else to pick one up for me?

No. Any localised targeting is done for specific reasons, remember if you have Covid symptoms please do not visit a location where self-test kits are being given out as you could be spreading the virus.

I don’t have symptoms and I have been told to isolate as I am a contact. How do I get a test?

You do not need to get a test unless you develop symptoms but you must remain isolated for 10 days.

My child has been sent home from school to isolate for 10 days. What do I need to do?

Your child needs to stay at home and isolate for 10 days and you only book a test if your child develops symptoms.

My symptoms are getting worse, what do I do?

If your symptoms worsen such as you feel breathless and it’s getting worse or you feel you cannot cope with the symptoms at home then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or ring 111.

Where are Bolton’s test centres?

There are a number of test centres across the borough and we are working to make more available. Currently there are test facilities in Bolton town centre and sites in Farnworth and Halliwell. You will be told which centres have appointments available at the time you book a test.

Is there a way I can be prioritised because of my specific circumstances?

All bookings are via the national website (or 119) and there is no prioritisation

What should I do if someone I work with is showing Covid symptoms?

Tell them to go home, isolate and book a test.

Testing for people without symptoms (LFD)

The COVID-19 testing programme is helping protect the Bolton community by identifying those who have the virus but may not realise it.

Asymptomatic rapid testing - Lateral Flow Device (LFD) is available to people who live or work in Bolton.

Many people infected with COVID-19 suffer no symptoms but still risk passing it on to their colleagues, family, friends and others.

Why are we offering this testing programme?

Around one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and will be spreading it without realising it.

Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly and will help to break chains of transmission.

Who can get tested?

The asymptomatic (symptom-free) targeted testing is being offered to all residents and workers across the borough.

Tests are available to people who live or work in the Bolton borough, regardless of their age. Children under 16 will need parental consent.

Is the test mandatory or voluntary?

Tests are voluntary but you are strongly encouraged to take part as this will help protect yourself, your families and friends, colleagues, members of the public and help us bring the virus under control faster.

We aim to identify people who do not have COVID symptoms but who are infectious and could spread the infection to others unknowingly.  Identifying and supporting infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce spread.

What are the asymptomatic tests? 

Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests are rapid turnaround tests that are processed on site without any need for sending samples to a laboratory. The staff at the test sites have received special training to carry out the processing. Results are ready very quickly – normally within 30 minutes to 1 hour. 

Further information on how the lateral flow test works can be found in the video below.

Lateral flow tests

How do lateral flow tests work? Watch our animated explainer to find out.

Posted by UK government on Wednesday, 18 November 2020


How accurate is the Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test? 

Clinical evaluation shows lateral flow tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community, including for people who are asymptomatic (symptom-free). The LFD tests are good at picking up people who are highly infectious.   No test is 100% accurate and as with all tests there is the potential to have a false positive or a false negative result.  How to manage results is explained further down in this document.

Are LFD tests less accurate than Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests?

LFD and PCR tests have different characteristics and different uses.  PCR tests have higher specificity and sensitivity but require a laboratory to process results and are therefore slower and more expensive.  They are therefore well suited to specific use cases, such as those with COVID symptoms.

LFD tests have lower sensitivity than PCR tests but they deliver results faster and do not require a lab, making them more scalable.  As such, they allow us to test for larger numbers of asymptomatic people and get them their test result faster than with PCR technology.  This will enable us to capture a large percentage of people who are infected and infectious, but asymptomatic and unaware of the fact they are possibly spreading COVID.

Where and how can I get tested? 

1) At an LFD test site

Free tests are being delivered at key sites in the borough with results available in as little as 30 minutes.


  • Bolton Arena, Arena Approach, Horwich, Bolton BL6 6LB (Mon–Fri, 08:00–15:00)
  • Victoria Plaza Community Testing Hub Oxford Street, Bolton BL11RD (Mon-Wed and Fri-Sat 08:30-16:30, Thur 10:30-18:30, Sun 10:30-15:30)

Tests can be taken on site and home test kits are also available to collect for free.

Sites are walk in and no appointment is needed. 

2) Testing at home

If you live or work in Bolton you can do test at home.  You are able to get tests by:

  • Collecting at a Community Collect site or pharmacy
  • Ordering online for home delivery

For more information visit

How can I take part in the testing programme as an organisation?

If you would like to sign up to this programme as an organisation and get your staff tested, please read the manager FAQs here.

If my manager hasn’t arranged for the organisation to take part in the programme, can I still organise a test for myself anyway?

Yes, anybody who lives or works in Bolton can take part in the programme.

How can my organisation take part in the programme?

If your organisation has not already agreed to take part, you can speak with your manager and ask them to email to express an interest.

What happens if I cannot get to the test site, will home testing kits be made available?

Yes, home testing kits are available from community collect sites, pharmacies or can be ordered online.  For more information visit

Please also ensure that you are aware of the safer travel guidance during a coronavirus outbreak and it is followed.

What times are the test sites open and when does testing start?

These may vary day to day, due to demand, and the most up to date information will be uploaded onto the booking portal. 

Do I need to bring anything with me to the test?

You may be asked for staff ID when you register so please bring this along.

You will also need to bring a mobile phone to register for the test. If you do not have a mobile phone, one of the testing assistants can register you for a test. You will also be required to bring and wear a face covering.

Should I continue testing after I have received the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, you should continue to test even though you have had the vaccine.  This is because we do not yet know if the vaccine prevents transmission – you could potentially still carry and transmit the virus to other people, even if you are protected.

Could vaccination cause a false-positive COVID-19 LFD test result, or a false-positive PCR test result?

No.  The LFD test detects a different protein of the virus than the one encoded in the vaccine, and the PCR test detects different genes of the virus than the ones included in the vaccine.  There is no possibility of cross reaction.

What is the process at the test sites?

After booking online you be allocated a time slot at one of the local test sites.

Upon entering the testing site you will be asked to register with your own device (mobile or tablet) using a QR code (an iPad will be available if you do not have your mobile phone with you).

In registering to take part in the testing you will be consenting to sharing your data with the National Test & Trace programme.

You will then be allocated a test kit and barcode and assigned a testing station. The test kit will have full instructions and the testing assistant will also explain the process. 

If you have ordered home test kits, there will be instructions inside the box.

How is the test done? 

Briefly the test will involve taking a sample from the back of your throat (tonsils or tonsillar pits if you have had your tonsils removed) and then a sample from your nostril using a swab. You will be provided with a mirror to help identify the tonsils.

You will be asked to sanitise your hands before and after completing the test. Once you have obtained the sample you will place the swab, bud down in the test tube.  You will then place your face covering back on and leave the booth and test centre, following the directions.

Do I have to wait for the result before coming into work or leaving home?

This is not a requirement of the programme.  You should receive your result within 30-60 minutes depending on how busy the test centre is. Please ensure you continue to follow all Covid 19 guidance and workplace/individual risk assessments.  Please refer to the section on the results.

It is very important that you continue to follow all COVID safe guidance (social distancing, hand washing, use of face masks and covering as appropriate) even if you have a negative LFD result, no test is 100% accurate.

How will the results be communicated?

The results will be sent via text message and/or an email using the contact details recorded by the staff member at the registration/check-in process. The results will be communicated within approximately 30 minutes of taking a test with appropriate guidance to follow depending on the result (this may take slightly longer if the test site is busy). For anyone who does not have a phone, test site staff will discuss how the results will be received.

What happens if the test is negative? 

You can travel on to work or leave home, but it is important that you must continue to follow the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus.

To protect yourself and others, you must remember: 

  • Hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available. 
  • Face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. 
  • Space – stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble. 
  • Fresh air - opening windows and doors at home is the simplest way of improving ventilation for most people. 
  • Limit your contacts – you must not mix with other households indoors or outdoors unless they are in your support or childcare bubble. 

If you develop symptoms during the day, you should go home straight away and book a PCR test via the national portal at 

What happens if the LFD test is positive? 

If the LFD test comes back positive you must not go into work, if you are in work, you must go straight home, contact your manager and self-isolate along with your household. A positive LFD test should currently be followed up by taking a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result.  A PCR test for those with a positive LFD result can be booked via the national portal at or call 119.

If the confirmatory PCR test result is negative, then you will no longer be required to self-isolate, and your contacts will no longer need to self-isolate. You will still need to adhere to the national restrictions in place at the time.

If the confirmatory PCR test comes back positive, then you must continue to isolate for 10 full days from the day following your initial symptom-free test. Everyone in your household will be a ‘close contact’ and must also self-isolate for 10 full days from the day following your initial symptom free-test. Contact tracing will be initiated through the NHS or local contact tracing team and other close contacts will be advised to quarantine for 10 days from the day following the initial symptom free-test

Please check the most to date guidance below. 

Further advice on self-isolating, and the support available in Bolton can be found at  

What should I do if I develop symptoms and become unwell after my positive test?

If you are isolating because of a positive test result but did not have any symptoms, and you develop COVID-19 symptoms within your isolation period, start a new 10 day isolation period by counting 10 full days from the day following your symptom onset.

Please see follow the latest stay at home guidance.

What happens if the result is invalid?

You should be retested at the most convenient time. You can book another test via the booking portal.

How frequently will I need to get tested?

You should aim to be tested twice weekly, every three to four days.  

Do I have to register every time I get tested?

No, if you want to take up the offer of repeat testing, you can register for an NHS log in so that some of your details will be captured and will help with registration at each test visit.

Should I get an LFD test if I already have coronavirus symptoms? 

These tests are for symptom-free people only.

Please do not to attend if you develop any coronavirus symptoms, and instead book a PCR test online or by phone on 119. 

I have previously tested positive for coronavirus, do I still need to be tested?

Anyone who has previously received a positive test result for COVID-19 does not need to be retested within a 90-day period and therefore does not require an LFD test. If you should develop any new symptoms of COVID-19 within the 90day period, you will need to book a PCR test online or by phone on 119. 

Please check the latest stay at home guidance.

If I am already a close contact of somebody who tested positive and have been asked to self-isolate.  Can l get an LFD test so I can stop isolating and return to work?

This test does not remove the need to self-isolate should you need to. Government self-isolation advice should be followed at all times.

What should I do if I develop symptoms in between allocated testing days?

You and your household should isolate immediately and book a PCR test through the national portal

If I have to self-isolate and what support is available locally?

You can contact the council support helpline on 01204 337221 or use the online COVID support form.

The Team Bolton community of volunteers, partners and council staff are offering vital help to people who need support (including food and essential items such as medication).

Please call the helpline if you do not have a network of family and friends you can call upon for support.

You can find more information in our coronavirus support hub.

Further questions?

If you have any other queries please email


Coronavirus testing downloads

Document Name Language Type Size
Testing yourself for Covid-19 - English How to test yourself for coronavirus (COVID-19) at home English PDF 3.66MB
Testing yourself for Covid-19 - Urdu How to test yourself for coronavirus (COVID-19) at home Urdu PDF 3.67MB
Testing yourself for Covid-19 - Gujarati How to test yourself for coronavirus (COVID-19) at home Gujarati PDF 2.37MB
Testing yourself for Covid-19 - Arabic How to test yourself for coronavirus (COVID-19) at home Arabic PDF 2.37MB
Testing yourself for Covid-19 - Somali How to test yourself for coronavirus (COVID-19) at home Somali PDF 2.37MB
Testing yourself for Covid-19 - Polish How to test yourself for coronavirus (COVID-19) at home Polish PDF 2.37MB
Test kit registration Test kit registration process English PDF 616KB
Variant of concern - Enhanced testing Variant of concern - enhanced testing English PDF 123KB
Variant of concern - Vaccination Bus Variant of concern - vaccination bus English PDF 227KB