Coronavirus symptoms and testing

[Updated 20 September 2021]

There are different tests you can get to check if you have coronavirus (COVID-19). The test you need depends on why you're getting tested.

The 2 main tests are:

  • PCR tests – mainly for people with symptoms, they're sent to a lab to be checked
  • rapid lateral flow tests – only for people who do not have symptoms, they give a result in 30 minutes using a device similar to a pregnancy test

Both tests are free.

See below for details of both types of testing and how they can be accessed on the Isles of Scilly.

PCR Testing

If you experience any COVID-19 symptoms at any time, you must: 

  • Stay indoors and self-isolate. If you need support to self-isolate, please contact keepscillysafe@scilly.gov.uk.
  • Arrange for a PCR test as soon as possible (and within the first 8 days of having symptoms).

Household contacts of anyone who is experiencing symptoms, awaiting a PCR test result or has tested positive for coronavirus should also self-isolate unless they are exempt in one of the following ways:

  • they are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means that they have been vaccinated with an MHRA approved COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, and at least 14 days have passed since they received the recommended doses of that vaccine.
  • they are below the age of 18 years 6 months
  • they have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
  • they are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons

The guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection has been updated to take the changes to the self-isolation rules which came into effect on 16 August 2021 into account.

If you are identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19 by NHS Test and Trace, but you are not legally required to self-isolate, you can still help protect others by following the guidance for non-household contacts. As well as getting a PCR test, you may also consider:

  • limiting close contact with people outside your household, especially in enclosed spaces
  • wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and where you are unable to maintain social distancing
  • limiting contact with anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable
  • taking part in twice weekly LFD testing

This advice applies until 10 full days after your most recent contact with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

When do I need to get a coronavirus PCR test?

You should get a coronavirus PCR test if at least one of the following applies:

  • you have a high temperature
  • you have a new, continuous cough
  • you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed
  • you’ve been asked to by a local council
  • you've been asked to by your doctor or a medical professional (e.g. in preparation for going into hospital for surgery or a procedure)
  • you’re taking part in a government pilot project
  • you've been identified as a contact by NHS Test and Trace. NHS Test and Trace will contact you to let you know that you have been identified as a contact and check whether you are legally required to self-isolate. If you are not legally required to self-isolate you will be provided with advice on testing and given guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

You can also get a PCR test for someone you live with if they have symptoms. 

Accessing a PCR test on the Isles of Scilly 

To access a PCR test on the islands you need to either:

  • call 07955 434608, 9:30am to 2pm, Monday to Friday or 9:30am to 11:30am on Saturdays
  • or email keepscillysafe@scilly.gov.uk – test requests will be handled at the times above.

Please note: test requests cannot be processed on a Sunday. 

If you are pre-arranging tests because you intend to travel to England (including the Isles of Scilly) from abroad, you must visit the government’s travel rules webpage as we cannot deal with these particular requests locally.

If you have booked a PCR test because you are symptomatic, you will be contacted by the Local Incident Response Team who can offer support and answer questions.

If you are on St Mary’s with symptoms a mobile testing coordinator will usually come to you and test you, or a test will be delivered for you to self-administer in accordance with the instructions on the testing kit.

If you are on an off island a test will normally be delivered to you by a designated point of contact on your island. You can then self-administer the test in accordance with the instructions on the testing kit.  The point of contact will arrange to collect your test and transfer it to St Mary's.

Please remember that if you are symptomatic and need to get a test on the Isles of Scilly, you must not visit the pharmacy, health centre or hospital on St Mary's as you may inadvertently spread the virus. If you need medical advice while you wait for your test result, please contact your GP or call 111.

You are also able to access PCR testing via the national route by visiting this link: gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. However, this may take longer than the local route.

PCR Test Results

PCR tests will be collected and sent to Truro for analysis as rapidly as possible and results provided to you by phone or email – this usually takes around 48 hours.

Please ensure you self-isolate whilst waiting for your test result (unless you are not symptomatic AND are exempt under the latest changes to the self-isolation rules) and keep your phone charged so that you can be contacted with your results, or by the Local Incident Response Team or an NHS Test and Trace representative.  

The Local Incident Response Team will undertake some initial security checks before sharing your test result with you. Currently, your results will also be shared with Health Protection South West. In the event that you cannot be contacted by telephone, you will be contacted via email to the email address you have provided. 

You will be advised on what to do next when you are contacted with your test results.

In the event that you receive a negative PCR test result but continue to experience symptoms, you should email keepscillysafe@scilly.gov.uk for further advice relating to testing and isolation and contact your GP by phone or video for health advice.

If you are visiting the islands and need a PCR test

If you are visiting the islands and require a PCR test, all of the information above still applies, so please read it in full.

National guidance states that if you become symptomatic, or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, you must self-isolate immediately and order a PCR test (by following the instructions in the section above). For visitors to the islands, including those here for work purposes, this would mean self-isolating in your accommodation on the islands for the duration of the self-isolation period unless otherwise notified by either the Council, Public Health or NHS Test and Trace following a full risk assessment of the situation. You can help protect our resources on island by planning ahead and making sure you have everything you need in the event you are asked to self-isolate on the islands. However, if you find yourself in need of something during your self-isolation period, you MUST stay in your accommodation and contact the Local Incident Response Team for support. You can do this by emailing keepscillysafe@scilly.gov.uk, or calling the Council enquiries team on 0300 1234 105 (option 5), who will ask a member of the LIRT to call you back.

In addition to the advice above, you must also:

  • Inform your accommodation provider that you are self-isolating immediately.
  • Use your Isles of Scilly accommodation address and postcode (TR21, TR22, TR23, TR24, TR25) when requesting a test.
  • Keep your phone charged so that you can be contacted with your results and/or by the NHS Test and Trace System. If you have no mobile reception and no access to email in your accommodation, you must ensure you can safely access and relay messages from our Local Incident Response Team and NHS Test and Trace via your accommodation provider or another on-island contact. These arrangements should be established as soon as you become aware that you cannot be contacted easily.
  • Bear in mind that if you become symptomatic when you are due to leave the islands you must still request a PCR test and self-isolate in your accommodation immediately. Contacts identified within your travel party may also be required to self-isolate if asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace. This situation may incur additional expenses for accommodation etc. and is worth discussing with your accommodation provider before booking your trip to the islands.

You can find further advice for visitors during the pandemic here.

Arriving in England (which includes the Isles of Scilly) from abroad

If you are arriving in England (which includes the Isles of Scilly) from abroad, you need to get tested for COVID-19 before you travel and ensure you have booked tests which you can take in England following your arrival. Please check the rules for travelling to England well in advance and book your tests prior to travel via one of the private PCR test providers on the UK Government website. You MUST leave enough time for the tests to be delivered to your destination address on the islands, or bring them with you.

Rapid Lateral Flow Testing

From 9 April everyone in England, including those without symptoms, is able to access free, regular, rapid coronavirus (COVID-19) testing. About 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms but can still infect others. Getting regular tests is the only way to know if you have the virus.

How do I access regular rapid lateral flow testing?

On Scilly, you can access a rapid lateral flow home testing kit in one of the following ways:

  • Via the islands' Community Collect site. This is located in the Town Hall and can be accessed via the rear of the building. You can collect tests between 9am and 11am on Tuesdays and Thursdays - simply knock on the door and someone will provide you with a test. Alternatively, you can email keepscillysafe@scilly.gov.uk to arrange to collect a test at another time, or arrange to meet a member of the team to show you how to administer the test.
  • Via government’s home testing website. You can order tests to arrive at your house by post. Your tests should arrive within a couple of days. Testing involves swabbing your nose and throat. All the instructions will be in the packaging.
  • Via the pharmacy on St Mary's. One person can collect enough rapid lateral flow tests for 4 people from the pharmacy on St Mary's by attending in person. Please do not come to the pharmacy if you are experiencing symptoms. Off-island residents can call the pharmacy on 01720 422021 in order to arrange for delivery to the off-islands if necessary. Stock is being replaced on a regular basis, but it is advised that if you are aware you will need rapid lateral flow tests on a particular day, you should aim to collect them a few days in advance. 

What if my rapid lateral flow test result is positive?

If your rapid lateral flow test is positive, please self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test to confirm the result by either:

  • calling 07955 434608, 9:30am to 2pm, Monday to Friday, or 9:30am to 11:30am on Saturdays
  • or emailing keepscillysafe@scilly.gov.uk – test requests will be handled at the times above.

Please note: test requests cannot be processed on a Sunday.

If you have any questions, or if self-isolating will cause you or your family hardship or distress, please contact keepscillysafe@scilly.gov.uk and we will signpost you to the information and financial and welfare support we have in place to keep you and the community safe.

IMPORTANT! If you are symptomatic… 

Please remember that if you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus, you must self-isolate immediately and access a PCR test by either:

  • calling 07955 434608, 9:30am to 2pm, Monday to Friday, or 9:30am to 11:30am on Saturdays
  • or emailing keepscillysafe@scilly.gov.uk – test requests will be handled at the times above.

Please note: test requests cannot be processed on a Sunday.

Continue to follow the basic rules

Regardless of whether you have been tested, have been vaccinated or believe the risk to be low on the islands, it is essential that we all continue to follow the guidance, wash our hands, cover our faces, make space and let fresh air into enclosed spaces.

Further information

If you have any questions relating to testing or other coronavirus arrangements on the islands at any time, please do not hesitate to contact keepscillysafe@scilly.gov.uk.