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Covid-19 testing

Testing regularly, we can find out early who might have the Covid-19 virus and stop it from spreading into the community

Testing for Covid-19

One in 3 people who have Covid-19 do not show any symptoms and can spread the virus without knowing it. By testing regularly, we can find out early who might have the virus and stop it from spreading into the community. You should test twice a week even if you feel well or have been vaccinated.

In Waltham Forest, test sites are open every day at various locations across the borough to make it easy for residents to get tested.

All tests are free and you don’t need to make an appointment.

Getting tested is quick, easy, and safe. Make sure to get the right test which depends on whether you have Covid-19 symptoms or not.

If you have symptoms, you will need to go to one of our local test sites which offer a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. Many people get their result the next day, but it may take up to 3 days because they are processed in a laboratory. It’s important that you get a PCR test if you have symptoms, no matter how mild.

If you don’t have symptoms, please go to any of our community test sites. These sites offer a Lateral Flow Test (LFT) which allows people who have no symptoms to know if they have the virus. It's a rapid test, and you can get a result on the same day.

You can also collect a free rapid test kit with our Community Collect service or order home test kits online

Where to find your nearest testing centre

If you have symptoms

The three main symptoms of Covid-19 are a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or a change or loss of sense of taste or smell. Whether vaccinated or not, if you or someone in your household has these symptoms, you must isolate, and the person with symptoms should get a PCR test.

Locally, we advise a PCR test also if you or your child have wider symptoms which are new, persistent or unusual such as:

  • Flu-like symptoms not linked to hay fever
  • Muscle ache or pain
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Persistent headache
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Sore throat and/or hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea

You are not legally required to isolate if you have these wider symptoms only and not the main three.

Open everyday from 8am to 6pm:

  • Stanley Road car park, Leyton E10 7EQ
  • Linford Road car park, Walthamstow E17 3LS
  • Church Lane car park, Leytonstone E11 1HG
    (Please note: this site is walk-in only, there is no parking on site)
  • Richmond Road car park E4 7BN

You should not travel to PCR test sites by public transport - if you can't get there safely, you can book an appointment or a home test online or by calling 119.

Mobile testing units

Mobile testing units provide extra testing capacity in the borough for people with Covid-19 symptoms.

Our mobile testing unit is open every day from 9am to 3pm, currently at Jubilee Sports ground car park, The Avenue, Highams Park, E4 9SF.

If you have no symptoms

Monday to Friday: 9.30am to 6pm

Saturday to Sunday: 10am to 5pm

  • Chingford Assembly Hall, Station Road, E4 7EN
  • Jubilee Centre, Cathall Rd, Leytonstone, E11 4LA
    (Entrance via the car park)
  • Leyton Cricket Ground, 2 Crawley Road, Leyton, E10 6RJ
    (Entrance is at the corner of Leyton High Road and Crawley Road)
  • One Hoe Street, Walthamstow E17 4SD (Fridays 8am to 1pm only)

Find your nearest LFT test site (

Rapid lateral flow home test kits  

If you don’t have symptoms, you can get free rapid test kits to use in the comfort of your home. Each box will have a set of instructions which are simple to follow.

Remember to:

  • Take a test twice a week (every 3 or 4 days apart)
  • Report every result to NHS Test and Trace on the same day you take the test  
  • Report your test result online or by calling 119  


Covid-19 home testing kit
  • One box of tests will be provided per household (up to four people) 
  • Nasal only swab, please refer to instructions provided with a test kit
  • You will not need to use the waste bag enclosed in the box
  • You will not need to use the small cap enclosed in the box
  • Don’t forget to report your result on the GOV.UK website

For more information read Your Step-by-Guide

Watch how to take a nose-only test

Read instructions on how to self-test at home in English and other languages

If your home test result is positive

If your home test result is positive, you must self-isolate immediately. From 11 Jan 2022, confirmatory PCR tests are temporarily suspended so you will not need to take a follow-up PCR test as before.

However, you will still need to take a PCR test if you have symptoms and to be eligible for the £500 self-isolation support payment.

Please see the stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection

If your home test result is negative

A negative result means the test did not find signs of coronavirus. But this does not guarantee you do not have coronavirus, so you should keep following all coronavirus advice, including regular handwashing and social distancing.

Self-isolation Support Payment

You may be able to get financial support and other help if you test positive for Covid-19 and have to self-isolate and stop working.

Please see our Test and Trace Self Isolation Support Payments page for more information.

Frequently asked questions on testing at test sites

Do I have to get a test?

No, the tests are not mandatory but we encourage everyone to get tested regularly, especially if you can't work from home.  By getting tested you help protect your family and friends if you are found to have the virus. You’ll also be helping to stop the spread of the virus in the borough and protecting the health of everyone. 

Do I have to book to get tested? 

No, you can just turn up at one of the test sites during the opening times.  

I think I may have Covid-19 and I’m showing the symptoms for the virus. Should I get tested? 

Yes, please visit one of our mobile test sites for those with symptoms.  However, you should not travel to the test site by public transport.  If you can't get to a test site safely, you can book an appointment or a home test online or by calling 119.

I’m feeling slightly unwell but my symptoms are not those associated with Covid-19. Should I get tested? 

Yes, there is a chance it could be Covid-19 and by getting tested you can be sure, and you’ll be able to protect your loved ones.  

What should I bring with me?  

Please bring a smart phone to register your test with the NHS Test and Trace website. You must also wear a face covering (unless you’re exempt) when you visit a test site.

What does the test involve?

The test involves taking a swab of both nostrils only using a long cotton bud

You can do the swab yourself (if you are aged 12 or over) or someone can do it for you. Parents or carers have to swab test children aged 11 or under.

How will I find out my results?  

You will receive an e-mail and/or a text message with your test results from NHS Test and Trace. Only you will receive the results.  

What should I do if I’ve had a test and haven’t had my result?

You should get your test results within an hour or so. It’s very rare that you wouldn’t get your results at all but if this happens, please take your test again until you get the result.

What happens if I test positive?  

If you receive a positive test result from NHS Test and Trace you will need to follow the government guidelines and self-isolate for 10 days.

Where can I get information about Covid-19 that is in my language?

See our Covid-19 information pages for easy-read, translations and BSL versions of government guidance.

Frequently asked questions on home testing

How many tests am I allowed to pick up from a test site?

During the online ordering process, you will be guided through a series of questions to help you access the most appropriate testing channel based on your household situation. If you are directed to collect tests from a local test site you will be provided with 2 boxes based on your household taking twice weekly tests. If you have a larger household, or are also collecting for your childcare bubble you may be eligible to collect up to 4 boxes.

How reliable/effective are LFT kits used at home without a trained professional?

No test is perfect, but the speed and convenience of LFT tests supports detection of the virus in asymptomatic individuals who would not otherwise be tested. Each positive case identified can help prevent many additional people becoming infected over time. LFT tests are crucial in the fight against the virus.

Extensive clinical evaluation has been carried out on the lateral flow tests. Evaluations from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show these tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used by individuals in the community.

LFT tests identify the most infectious individuals. These individuals tend to spread the virus to many people and so identifying them remains important.  We believe the ability to self-test at home makes rapid testing even more convenient, accessible and further increases the speed at which people can self-isolate.

It is important to remember that these tests are an additional health protection measure in addition to face coverings, social distancing etc.

If these tests are so effective why do people need a confirmatory PCR test after doing the test at home?

In line with clinical advice, confirmatory PCR testing will remain in place for individuals that are testing at home, in order to minimise the risk that incorrectly reported positive results are registered.

What happens if a PCR confirmatory follow up test to a home positive LFT is negative?

Following a home LFT positive test, a confirmatory PCR test should be booked online or via 119. If the PCR test is negative, it overrides the LFT test (at home only) and a child can return to school.

What if people don’t have access to internet/digital – how will they report results?

You can report results via telephone by calling 119 (free from mobiles and landlines). Lines are open every day, 7am to 11pm.

How will school staff and pupils get access to tests?

Primary staff are able to collect home tests from their schools to enable them to test twice weekly.

Secondary staff are able to collect test kits for home testing.

Nursery staff will have access to collect home tests from their nurseries to enable twice weekly testing.

Secondary pupils will be supplied with home test kits to continue twice weekly testing at home.

How can the tests be returned?

The vast majority of tests used are lateral flow devices which give a result in around 30 minutes. As such, there is no need to return these devices. Once a test is complete, the device can be disposed of as domestic waste.

Where a confirmatory PCR test is delivered by post, you should ideally post the completed test kit through a priority post-box no later than 1 hour before last collection. Weekend collection times may differ from weekdays. Do not take your test on a bank holiday, take it on the following day instead, so it can be collected on time.

To check collection times at your nearest Royal Mail priority post-box:

  1. Go to Royal Mail: services near you
  2. Click the ‘Show my nearest priority post-boxes' tick box
  3. Enter the postcode of where you’re staying and select the address
  4. View priority post-boxes near you and check the collection times

If you’re unable to get to a priority post-box without using public transport, or unable to follow the government’s social distancing guidelines, are shielding, classed as vulnerable, or too unwell to leave your home, call us for guidance on when to take your test and how to book a courier collection: People in England can call 119 (free from mobiles and landlines) - Lines are open every day, 7am to 11pm.

Myths around testing

We know that common myths around testing can hold people back from taking a test Below are some of the most common misconceptions around testing.

Myth 1: Only essential workers are eligible for a coronavirus test

Fact:  Anyone, of any age, with symptoms can get a free test.

If you have any of the four symptoms, however mild, you should book a test immediately regardless of your age or profession. Even if you do not have symptoms, you could be at risk of passing it to someone else more vulnerable. Testing is vital to help stop the spread of the virus and will confirm if you need to stay at home.

Myth 2: Testing is painful

Fact: The test is simple and takes around 20 seconds – while it may cause some discomfort it will not hurt.

Tests are important because they tell you whether you currently have coronavirus. Swab tests involve taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat. The test will only take around 20 seconds and while you may feel discomfort, it will not hurt. 

Myth 3: You can pay to get a quicker, more reliable test

Fact: The most reliable coronavirus tests are available for free via the NHS

The tests available through NHS Test and Trace are the best available to confirm if you currently have coronavirus, and they are completely free. The test is reliable and effective. Purchasing unverified coronavirus tests could mean that your results are misleading.

You will never be asked for payment details or credit information by the NHS service. 

Myth 4: There aren’t enough tests and those available should not be taken by a young, healthy person

Fact: Tests are available for anyone who needs one, and should be taken whether you have symptoms or not.

Around one in three people do not have symptoms so getting tested will help identify cases and break chains of transmission when people isolate.

Myth 5: Only people with severe symptoms should get a test

Fact: If you have a new, continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss or change in your sense of taste and/or smell, you must get tested - even if your symptoms are mild. 

Around one in three people do not have symptoms so getting tested will help identify cases and break chains of transmission when people isolate.

Myth 6: Ethylene Oxide in Covid-19 tests causes cancer 

Fact: Lateral Flow Tests (the tests for people without symptoms of Covid-19) are sterilised using Ethylene Oxide and is completely safe to use

Ethylene Oxide is one of the most commonly used sterilisation methods in the healthcare industry to keep medical devices safe. Any traces of Ethylene Oxide left in the tests or packaging after sterilisation is not dangerous and is in line with international standards. There is also no link between Covid-19 testing and cancer. The Lateral Flow Tests used in schools and in the community have been fully tested and are completely safe to use on a regular basis.