Pathology Standards for COVID-19 Samples - Secondary Care

Publication: 12/04/2020  
Next review: 01/09/2025  
Clinical Guideline
ID: 6362 
Approved By:  
Copyright© Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 2022  


This Clinical Guideline is intended for use by healthcare professionals within Leeds unless otherwise stated.
For healthcare professionals in other trusts, please ensure that you consult relevant local and national guidance.

Pathology Standards for COVID-19 samples

All samples from potentially infected patients may contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) and need to be handled in the laboratory in such a way as to minimise the risk of infection for laboratory staff. It is therefore vital that all samples are labelled and packaged correctly to assist lab staff in identifying high risk samples.

Labelling COVID-19 PCR samples

Please ensure correct specimen type is selected on ICE e.g. nose & throat, sputum, BAL etc…  

All clinically suspicious and confirmed COVID-19 samples must have the high risk sample box ticked on ICE.

Both clinically suspicious and confirmed COVID-19 samples and forms must be labelled with yellow ‘danger of infection’ stickers.

Labelling of other samples for blood, urine samples etc
Please ensure you select the correct COVID-19 status of the patient when requesting U+E, FBC, procalcitonin, blood culture etc…AND that Danger of Infection stickers are used as above for those with clinically suspicious or confirmed COVID-19

Danger of Infection labels can be obtained from the print unit-Code WRN502 or from Pathology Supplies (email

Packaging samples

All COVID-19 samples (irrespective of COVID-19 status) need to be double-bagged as there is a risk that the samples could leak during transport to the lab. This is an important health and safety issue to protect staff.  

Transporting samples

Samples that must be walked/ transported to the lab: (Not sent by POD / airturbe)

  • Nose & throat swabs
  • Sputum
  • Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)
  • Nasopharyngeal aspirate (NPA)
  • MRSA screens
  • Faeces

Samples that can be sent by POD (airtube):

  • Any blood sample e.g. FBC, U+E, LFT etc..
  • Blood cultures
  • Any swab for bacterial culture (not from resp site)
  • Urine

***REMEMBER: ALL SAMPLES MUST HAVE A DANGER OF INFECTION STICKER AND BE DOUBLE-BAGGED, ONE request label per bag and only listed samples in that bag ***

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Sampling, packaging, and transporting COVID-19 nose & throat samples

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  • Nose & throat swabs are preferred for COVID testing,
  • If samples cannot be sent immediately they should be refrigerated
  • Sputum samples/ BAL/ NPA or BAL are sent in a sterile universal container

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Record: 6362
Clinical condition:


Target patient group:
Target professional group(s): Secondary Care Doctors
Secondary Care Nurses
Adapted from:

Evidence base

Not supplied

Document history

LHP version 2.0

Related information

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