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COVID-19 RNA PCR Swab £79.95
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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Buy a test for Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Online Clinic offers two types of Coronavirus tests: the RNA PCR swab test that tells you if you currently have the virus, and the IgG/IgM antibody tests that tell you if you have had SARS-CoV-2 and generated the antibodies or have been vaccinated and developed the particular antibody targeted by the vaccines. Please note that there are two antibody tests, depending on what information you are seeking.

This page is for the RNA PCR swab. For the antibody test, please visit our Covid Antibody Test page.

Viral RNA by PCR

This test is a Viral RNA test to check if you currently have the virus. The test kit we send out involves you taking samples from your throat and nose and sending this back to our laboratory for analysis. The return envelope is the Royal Mail 24 tracked service, and this is included in the price. You will receive your results from a doctor online within around 24 hours of the sample arriving back at the laboratory.

The lab-based PCR test has a sensitivity of at least 98% and a specificity of 100%, with no cross-reactivity with other viruses. The optimum point for sample collection is days 1 - 5 following onset of symptoms, with day 3 preferred. After day 5, the virus is generally no longer present in the upper respiratory tract.

All positive results are reported to the UK Health Security Agency each morning and are included in totals published by the Office of National Statistics.

COVID-19 RNA PCR Swab £79.95

Although now less common, this was the test required by some airlines and border security agencies for members of the travelling public. The lab report is provided to evidence "free from Covid-19". You can add on a Fit to Fly letter that is signed by a doctor. Please check with any destination if this certification is still required.

Test kits need to be sent in the name of the patient being tested. You cannot request a test for someone else using your patient record. As The Online Clinic is licensed for 18 and over only, we cannot offer tests for children unfortunately.

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can infect humans and animals. Some coronaviruses cause disease, and are responsible for a range of respiratory infections including the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). SARS-CoV-2, commonly known as COVID-19, is a new coronavirus that was first identified in China in December 2019 and led to the pandemic.

The SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19 can change over time resulting in variants. Several variants of COVID-19 have emerged, each named using letters of the Greek alphabet, including Alpha (the original virus), Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, and Omicron. Some changes have led to differences in the variants' ability to spread disease and cause severe disease.

How do you catch Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is spread from person to person. It's transmission from one person to another may occur in several ways, although this is mainly via droplets carried through the air from the nose or mouth when someone sneezes or coughs or talks. Droplets may carry for distances of over 6 feet to other people who then breathe the virus into their lungs or take it in through the eyes. Studies have found that the virus remains infectious in the air from 5 minutes to 3 hours.

While not a common way of catching COVID-19, surface transmission can occur when the droplets land on surfaces. Another person touching that surface then transfers the virus to themselves by touching their eyes, nose or mouth. The length of time the virus lives on a surface appears to depend on the virus variant and surface type; for example, on plastic, the Alpha variant lasts 56 hours and the Omicron variant lasts 194 hours.

There is also a low risk of infection through contact with an infected person's faeces and urine. While animals can catch COVID-19 from humans, the risk of humans contracting the virus from animals is low.

Who is at greatest risk of COVID-19?

Several factors are important in determining how severe the COVID-19 infection will become. Factors that increase a person's risk of having severe symptoms, include old age, male sex, underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, chronic lung diseases, liver, kidney and heart diseases, tumours, a compromised immune system, and pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19

For most people COVID-19 symptoms are mild to moderate, although some show no symptoms while in others symptoms are so severe they require hospitalisation. A wide range of symptoms may occur, including a fever or chills, a continuous cough, breathlessness, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint aches, runny/blocked nose, loss of smell/taste, sore throat, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhoea. In severe cases, COVID-19 may cause death.

If symptoms worsen, contact your doctor or hospital before you go, and follow their advice.

What is the incubation period?

The incubation period - that is the time between exposure to COVID-19 and the appearance of symptoms of the virus - ranges from 2–14 days. The average incubation period is 5 days.

How long does the infection last?

The length of time that a person remains infectious may vary from person to person. People with COVID-19 who do not show symptoms can infect others with whom they have contact before their symptoms appear or if they never show symptoms. Generally, from the time of a positive test result or from the day symptoms appeared, people who do not show symptoms or have mild symptoms are infectious for at least 5 days while those with moderate or severe symptoms may remain infectious for 10 days or more.

Recovery from mild COVID-19 is usually 1–2 weeks, while it may take 6 weeks or more to recover more severe or serious symptoms. Some people develop what is known as Long COVID, where the symptoms persist for months. Long COVID may affect those who had COVID-19 regardless of disease severity. The most common symptoms are fatigue and breathlessness, but may include loss of smell/taste, joint pains, cognitive/mental impairments, and heart and gut problems.

Can you catch COVID-19 more than once?

You can become reinfected with COVID-19 even if you have had it. People who have had COVID-19 are protected against reinfection for at least 5 months, although they may carry the virus in their nose and throat and able to infect others.

Are there medicines to treat COVID-19?

Treatment of COVID-19 depends on symptom severity and an individual's risk factors. Generally, the approach is to treat the symptoms. This may include resting at home, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking over-the-counter medicines to reduce pain and fever. More severe cases who are hospitalised may need support with breathing.

Medicines prescribed for COVID-19 are either antivirals or those that modify a person's immune system. For people with the virus and for those at high risk of severe infection, these medicines can shorten the length of illness, reduce symptom severity, and/or reduce risk for progression to severe COVID-19, hospitalisation or death. It is important that medicines for COVID-19 are prescribed by a doctor, so the risks and benefits to the person can be assessed.

Isolation measures with COVID-19

Studies have shown that people with COVID-19 mostly infect others in the 1–2 days before their symptoms appear and the 2–3 days after. While there are no COVID-19 restrictions in the UK, isolation is recommended to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

People with COVID-19 (i.e., a positive COVID-19 test result) should try to isolate at home and avoid contact with others for 5 days after the test, even if they do not show symptoms.

To reduce the risk of infecting others with COVID-19 during the first 5 days after a positive test result:

  • Work from home if possible, or ask your employer for advice.
  • Consider online shopping or asking others to get essentials for you.
  • Inform your healthcare provider that you have COVID-19 before attending a face-to-face appointment.

If you have a high temperature or feel unwell after these 5 days, continue this advice until you feel well and your temperature is normal.

When leaving your home during the first 5 days after a positive test result, then:

  • Wear a well-fitting surgical mask or multiple-layered face covering.
  • Avoid places where there may be crowds or close contact with other people, such as social gatherings, public transport, gyms, or poorly-ventilated indoor areas.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (particularly after sneezing, blowing your nose, and coughing, and before eating or handling food cleaning), and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.

While many people are not infectious to others after 5 days, some people are infectious for up to 10 days from the test result. Therefore, for the next 5 days (i.e., for days 6–10 after a positive test result), they should avoid anyone at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

Protecting yourself from COVID-19

There is a range of measures that you can take to minimise your risk of catching COVID-19, including:

  • Regularly washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, and disinfect surfaces and possessions.
  • Maintain your distance when out, and avoid contact with anyone who has the virus. Contact family and friends by phone or computer, and shop online.
  • Avoid or wear a mask in crowded public places, and around a family member if they have the virus.
  • If possible, work from home.
  • Avoid travel to countries with high COVID-19 levels, particularly if you or a family member is at high risk of serious COVID-19 infection.
  • If your pet has COVID-19 symptoms, isolate them and call your veterinarian for advice. Wash your hands after all contact with animals.

Protecting family members and those you live with from COVID-19

If you have COVID-19, several measures will help to protect those in the house:

  • Keep your distance from those you live with.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask, especially if you live with people who are at higher risk of serious illness.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (particularly after sneezing, blowing your nose, and coughing, and before eating or handling food cleaning), and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Ventilate rooms you use by opening windows and keeping them open for 10 minutes or more after leaving the room
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and items regularly used, such as door handles, phones, remote controls, keyboards, and shared kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Advise visitors to the home that you have symptoms, and they should take precautions to protect themselves

Children and adolescents (18 years and younger) with COVID-19

Generally, children and adolescents are infectious to other people for a shorter time period than adults. Children and adolescents who have a positive COVID-19 test result should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 3 days after the day of testing. They are at low risk of infecting others if, after 3 days, they do not have a high temperature and feel well.

Reviewed by: Dr Loraine Haslam MBBS, DRCOG, DFSRH, LoC SDI, LoC IUT, MRCGP
GMC registration number: 4524038
Date: 27 March 2023
Next review: 26 March 2025
All UK registered doctors can have their registration checked on
The Medical Register at the GMC website.

Coronavirus Test (COVID-19) Reviews By Our Patients

  • Overall Rating
    Based on 1 review
  • ★★★★★
    Very fast delivery. The return envelope was also a next day service. Received my kit on the Monday, took the sample and sent it back. Had my results on the Tuesday evening. Fortunately, I was negative. Also reassuring that the test is part of the Public Health England stats, so this gave me confidence.
    James T. - 21/04/20
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