Lateral flow tests: How they work and why they may help ease lockdown

What are lateral flow tests?

It is an antigen test that provides results in 30 minutes and is highly regarded for quickly identifying symptomatic and asymptomatic sufferers. It is not as sensitive as the gold standard PCR test but for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than one false positive result.

How can I obtain a test?

The free tests can be ordered online to be delivered to your home, through workplace testing programmes (on site, or at home) that your employer may have signed up to, community testing, which is offered by all authorities, or by collection from a local PCR test site at agreed times.

There is already testing on-site at schools and colleges for children and families, while a new “pharmacy collect” site service is being launched from which boxes of seven rapid tests can be collected.

For more information, go to: gov.uk/coronavirus

What should I do if I test positive?

You are required to self-isolate for ten days and report your result online or by phone using the barcode on the test strip or the ID number printed under it. You can order a follow-up PCR test to confirm or counter the lateral flow result. If that is negative, new rules allow you to end self isolation.

What is the NHS Covid 19 contact tracing app?

The app finds out when you have been near other app users who have tested positive for coronavirus. Under new regulations, everyone in a group who enters a hospitality venue must check in with their app. Previously, it was just the lead member.

What happens if someone at a venue tests positive?

If a person has been at a venue on the same day as several other people who have since tested positive for Covid-19, they may receive an alert, advising them to book a test immediately. Any contact will also be required to self-isolate, even if the other person subsequently checks out as negative with a PCR test.

Will I be able to use a negative test result to attend events, travel or go to work?

Some 100,000 employers have already registered their interest to use lateral flow tests to get staff back to work on the basis that they can be confident they and colleagues are clear of Covid.

Ministers are considering using test certificates to allow into theatres, cinemas, sports grounds, nightclubs and music festivals – and are trialling them at a series of events in April and May.

No final decisions have been taken but supervised lateral flow tests could be used to certify entry.

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