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How to get a Covid-19 Test in the UK and US

Demand for Covid-19 tests is expected to rise further during Autumn – here are some options for getting a test in the United States and Britain

Published on September 23, 2020

Covid-19 Test

Demand for coronavirus tests is increasing on both sides of the Atlantic, with public officials and scientists in both countries warning that resources could be stretched to the limit as we enter Fall.

During recent weeks, patients in the UK have been offered appointments hundreds of miles away due to a lack of local availability. In the US, as far back as in July, experts were warning about an increase in the number of tests needed, with Quest Diagnostics, the largest laboratory company in the US, warning that capacity was likely to be unable to cope with demand during flu season. James Davis, an executive vice-president at Quest, explained in an interview with the Financial Times that "There is no way that PCR capacity is going to double in the next three months ... other solutions need to be found".

As demand increases, if you're in need of a test, there are still possibilities available.

If you're in the UK, your first port of call remains the NHS. At the start of the pandemic, it was confirmed that no charges would be levied against overseas travelers visiting or non-UK citizens living in Britain, either for testing or treatment relating to Covid-19. To arrange a test, call the UK's health advice telephone number, 119, or go to the NHS Track and Trace web page.

Private options remain available in the UK and US - if you rely on health insurance for your medical costs, contact your insurance provider to find out the best way to book a test. You can also buy tests from various private medical practices online, if you're happy to pay for these yourself, although in this event, make sure you research the clinical effectiveness and accuracy of the available tests.

Demand for tests is likely to increase further if calls are heeded for Covid-19 testing at airports to allow airbridges to be developed. This week, aviation group Airlines UK, called for testing to be introduced to open up flight routes between the US and UK. John Holland Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport (a member of Airlines UK), argued that "We can start with flights to New York, a city where infection rates are now lower than here, and which is the UK’s most valuable route. PCR testing in private labs, both pre-flight and on arrival, would ensure that there is no risk of importing COVID and could pave the way to a Common International Standard for aviation testing."

One option if you're in the United States or in the UK is VFS Global, a company which has governnmental links through its outsourced visa services. VFS Global recently introduced an online appointment system in America, offering Covid-19 PCR and antibody tests in 10 US cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco Seattle and Washington DC. The testing can be conducted on a client's doorstep, which avoids the need to travel. The company also offers Covid-19 testing in the UK and a number of other worldwide locations including Australia, Austria, Belarus, China, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, Malaysia, Netherlands, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Vinay Malhotra, VFS Global's Regional Group COO – South Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and Americas, explained that "With COVID-19 testing poised to become a prerequisite for international travel, a reliable pre-departure COVID-19 testing solution is essential". Details of the VFS Global service can be found at www.vfsglobal.com/en/individuals/covid-test.html

More details on the NHS' Track and Trace system can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/get-a-test-to-check-if-you-have-coronavirus/.

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