AROUND one in three people with Covid-19 have no symptoms, and could be spreading the virus among friends, family and colleagues without knowing it. Even after you’ve had both doses of the vaccine, it’s still possible to give the virus to someone else. That’s why rapid testing is important to keep everyone safe and get our lives moving again.
So what can you do to play your part? This is where regular rapid Covid-19 testing – or lateral flow testing – comes in. These tests are specifically for people with no symptoms, and millions of people are already using them.
What is rapid testing?
Rapid Covid-19 testing is a fast, simple way to test for the virus in people without symptoms. You can do it at home using something known as a lateral flow device (LFD), which comes in the form of a kit similar to a home pregnancy test. LFDs are easy to use and give on-the-spot results in up to 30 minutes.
Who should get tested?
If you have to leave home regularly for work or education – for example, because you work on a construction site, at a supermarket or have to go into an office – you should be taking twice-weekly tests to help protect your friends, family and workmates. And now that schools have returned, secondary school children and college students, plus families with school-age children and their support bubbles, are also eligible for rapid testing.
Where to get rapid tests
It’s now easier than ever to get free rapid tests, and there are different options depending on your circumstances:
If you can’t work from home
If you need to work outside your home, your workplace may already offer rapid tests: check with your employer if you’re not sure. If they don’t offer them, you can be tested or collect self-test kits from around 500 local and regional sites – visit gov.uk/find-covid-19-lateral-flow-test-site for details. Or you can order tests online at gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests.
If you’re in a school household or bubble
If you have nursery, college or school-age children living at home or are in a childcare support bubble, you can also be tested or collect self-test kits from around 500 local and regional sites – visit gov.uk/find-covid-19-lateral-flow-test-site for details. Or you can order tests online at gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests.
If you run your own business
Any businesses in England that plan to open before the end of June 2021 should sign up for regular rapid workplace testing at gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests. This includes small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and those who are self-employed.
How to use rapid tests
How often should you take a rapid test?
Test twice a week, every week, using a rapid test when you have no symptoms.
Testing after vaccination
You should continue to use rapid tests even after vaccination because it is not yet known to what extent vaccination stops you from catching and passing on the virus – only that it is effective in stopping you from getting very ill.
What if I test positive with a rapid test?
You must self-isolate immediately to prevent further transmission, and register your result online at gov.uk/report-covid19-result. You may also need to take a further test – this will be sent to a lab and is the same one that people use if they have Covid-19 symptoms.
When not to use a rapid test
If you already have symptoms of Covid-19 such as a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss of sense of smell or taste, you should NOT use a rapid test. You will need to take a different type of test, which will be sent to a lab to be processed. This can be done at a walk-in or drive-through test site, or by ordering a home kit at gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
About rapid tests
How do you take a rapid test?
The test involves taking a swab sample, usually from the nose and throat, and applying it to a hand-held device. All the information you’ll need on how to do this will be included in the kit instructions, but you can also see a quick demonstration of how to take a rapid Covid-19 test here.
Don’t these tests give false positives?
New analysis of community testing data shows lateral flow tests have at least 99.9 per cent specificity – that’s less than one false positive for every 1,000 done. Millions of tests are now being done weekly. You cannot catch Covid-19 from the vaccine, so it will not return a positive rapid test result.
Rapid tests are effective
The lateral flow tests used for regular rapid testing have gone through a thorough evaluation by Public Health England and by scientists at Oxford University. They are accurate, reliable and suitable for use in people who don’t show symptoms. What is more, they pick up the vast majority of cases at the most infectious stage of the disease when people are likely to pass on the virus to others.
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