What are lateral flow tests?
Lateral flow antigen tests are used to test a higher proportion of people without Covid-19 symptoms (also called asymptomatic). This means we can identify and isolate more people who are at high likelihood of spreading virus. Each positive person we find through this type of testing is valuable because it will help to break the chain of transmission.
A lateral flow test detects the presence or absence of coronavirus by applying a swab or saliva sample to the device’s absorbent pad. The sample runs along the surface of the pad, and, once it’s fully developed, shows a visual positive or negative result dependent on the presence of the virus.
Why should I take part?
Many people who catch coronavirus don’t develop any symptoms at all but may spread it to their friends, family, and other members of community. Rapid testing aims to identify people who do not have Covid-19 symptoms but who are infectious so they can by supported to self-isolate and help stop the spread of the virus.
By taking a test you are helping to reduce the spread of Covid-19, which will also help keep critical services, such as health services, public transport, essential shops and recycling and waste collections, running.
Do I have to take this test?
We hope as many people as possible who can benefit from a test will choose to take one as it will help protect our family, friends, and community, but it is not compulsory.
I can get a lateral flow test through my work or school – do I need to take one of these as well?
Our rapid testing is part of the national plan to give more people in England access to tests when they do not have symptoms. If you are already able to get lateral flow tests, which are the same as our rapid tests, you do not need to get tested with us.
Do these tests work for people without symptoms?
Lateral flow tests are validated technology. It is safe, inexpensive and the results are trusted. Extensive clinical evaluation from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show Lateral Flow Tests are accurate and sensitive to be deployed for mass testing, including for asymptomatic people.
How effective is rapid testing?
The most accurate test we have for Covid-19 is the PCR test which you would get if you had symptoms. These test results can take a day or more to come back but are usually very accurate. The lateral flow devices used for rapid testing can give a much quicker result (usually within an hour) but they are not as accurate. A positive rapid test is backed up by a confirmatory PCR test to confirm the result.
A negative rapid test is not a guarantee that you do not have the virus. This is why you must continue to wash your hands, cover your face if you can, stay at least 2m from anyone not in your household or support bubble, and follow the Covid guidance even if you get a negative test. Please continue to keep your contacts to a minimum.