Testing people for Covid-19

The World Health Organization and most governments around the world stress the importance of testing for Covid-19 and then taking action based on this, in order to slow down the spread of the virus and allow the easing of lockdown. However, obtaining the materials for the tests, implementing tests to a wider population, analysing the results and ensuring that the correct action is taken is a challenge.  

Look at the ‘Testing people for Covid-19’ sheet, which shows the main types of test available for Covid-19 in the summer of 2020.

Try to decide which test is best for the people listed, and whether or not a test is needed. You can also do this activity online.


Tracing happens when people who have tested positive for an infectious disease like Covid-19 are asked to list all the people they have been in contact with for more than a short period of time. These people are then contacted and told that they must self-isolate at home to stop the spread of the virus. In some countries this is done digitally using a smart phone app. 

Can you remember the last four people that you met outside your household? 

Normally, you would only get a test if you had Covid-19 symptoms. The most common symptoms are: 

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature) 
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual) 
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different from normal.  

(Source: NHS) 

Do you remember ever having had these symptoms in the past?  

Why do you think it’s important to self-isolate in your home for 14 days if it looks as though you’ve been in contact with someone with Covid-19?