RAPID testing is available for free across the country with Brits being encouraged to take two tests a week to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Lateral flow tests have been hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as one way Brits will be able to resume “normal life” as Covid-19 restrictions start to ease up.
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At present, you are advised to get a coronavirus test if you have any of the three main symptoms defined by the NHS.
These are a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell (anosmia).
If you have any of these symptoms you should get a test and isolate in order to stop the spread of the virus.
You are also urged to get a test if you have to leave your home for work and work in a profession which means you could be exposed to infections.
Boris Johnson said: “Massive efforts have been made by the British public to stop the spread of the virus.
“As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.”
People who work in places such as care home and nurseries across the country have been getting two tests a week in order to make sure they aren’t bringing infections into the work place.
Under Mr Johnson’s new testing blitz everyone in England, including those without symptoms, will be able to take a free rapid Covid test twice a week.
Rapid lateral flow tests detect cases quickly, meaning that people can isolate faster.
WHERE TO GET A TEST
People can collect or order batches of their free Covid tests whether they have symptoms or not.
The public can order kits at home, get them through their workplaces, at schools, or via the network of testing centres which have been set up across the country.
A pharmacy collect service has also be launched.
People aged over 18 without symptoms will be able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of 7 rapid tests to use twice a week at home.
Mr Johnson promised the kits would “stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy”.
He said that this, along with the vaccine programme being rolled out across the country – would help normality resume.
You can order a free home test kit from the NHS website.
There are a number of testing sites across the UK which you can book.
You can also get tested in a NHS hospital, at a regional test centre in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, satellite centres, or at mobile testing units.
For more information about those sites, visit the government website.
The government advises to get a test done in the first five days of having symptoms.
HOW ACCURATE ARE TESTS
The MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) says that no tests is 100 per cent reliable.
In a paper published in March in the Cochrane review, experts found that lateral flow tests were accurate on 72 per cent of patients who had Covid.
The infection was also detected in 58 per cent of people who did not have symptoms.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE and Chief Medical Adviser to NHS Test and Trace said that rapid testing helps PHE find cases that may not have been detected and helps break the chain of transmission.
She said: “These tests are effective in detecting people that are infectious and therefore most likely to transmit infection to others. They are another tool we now have to help maintain lower infection rates.
HOW TO USE RAPID TESTS
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.
“I encourage everyone to take up the offer of these free rapid tests – they are quick and easy to carry out in your own home.”
Data from NHS Test and Trace shows that for for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than one false positive result.
The tests can detect high levels of the virus and are able to find people who may not have symptoms but are likely to transmit the virus.