Rapid community testing FAQs - Public Health Dorset

Rapid community testing FAQs

Who can be tested?

Everyone in England without symptoms (asymptomatic) can have a lateral flow device (LFD) test.

Why is testing important?

1 in 3 people with COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms. Getting tested regularly is the only way to know if you have the virus. If people test positive and self-isolate, it helps stop the virus spreading.

The value of LFD testing is in repeating it twice a week. A single negative result is no guarantee you haven’t got COVID-19. But ongoing negative tests will reassure you, your loved ones, your friends and workmates. Repeat testing will keep life moving as we get back to normal.

How do I get a LFD test?

LFD testing can be accessed in a number of ways:

When should I take the tests?

It is entirely up to you when you use your home tests. Tests are provided to allow for twice weekly testing. Some people find it useful to choose particular days that they test on ­– for example, Sunday and Wednesday. Alternatively, you might find it useful to take a test at other points in your weekly routine.

How long does it take to do the test?

It takes less than 15 minutes to administer the test.

How long does it take to get the result?

The test produces a result within 30 minutes.

What should I do if I test positive?

If you test positive with the rapid lateral flow test you will need to self-isolate for 10 days and book a PCR test. Eligible individuals who test positive will be entitled to the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment in the same way as a regular swab test through NHS Test and Trace. Please note the government has laid down eligibility criteria. 

What happens if I test negative?

You will continue to follow the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus.

To protect yourself and others, you must remember: Hands. Face. Space. Fresh air.

  • Hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home - use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • Space – stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.
  • Fresh air - groups of 30 people are able to meet outside. Two households or up to 6 people can meet inside but keep areas well ventilated by keeping windows open.

I have had my COVID-19 vaccine, do I need to get LFDs test?

It is really important that you continue asymptomatic testing even after having the vaccine. Although vaccinated people will have more protection from COVID-19, not enough is known about the vaccine’s impact on a person’s ability to transmit the virus. Everyone who has received the vaccine should also continue to follow all infection prevention and control measures. Together, this will help manage infections.

It is vitally important that we do not relax our guard. We must continue to take additional steps to limit the spread of COVID-19, including regular testing, social distancing and using face coverings.

What type of tests will be used for twice-weekly testing and how do they work?

Lateral flow antigen tests are a new kind of technology that can be used to test a higher proportion of asymptomatic people, better enabling us to identify and isolate more people who are at high likelihood of spreading virus, and break the chains of transmission.

A lateral flow device (LFD) test detects the presence or absence of coronavirus from a swab or saliva sample. The sample is mixed with a buffer solution, which releases and breaks up virus fragments. Some of the solution is then dropped on to the lateral flow device. The sample runs along the surface of the devices’ absorbent strip, showing at the end a visual positive or negative result dependent on the presence of the virus.

Are lateral flow tests less accurate than PCR tests?

Lateral flow and PCR tests have different characteristics and different uses. PCR tests have higher specificity and sensitivity but require a laboratory to process results and are therefore slower and more expensive. They are therefore well suited to specific use cases, such as those with COVID-19 symptoms.

While lateral flow tests have lower sensitivity than PCR, they deliver results far faster and do not need a lab, making them more scalable. As such, they allow us to test far larger numbers of asymptomatic people and get them their test result faster than with PCR technology. This will enable us to capture a large percentage of people who are infected and infectious, but not showing symptoms and unaware of the fact that they are possibly spreading COVID-19.

Do these tests work for people without symptoms?

LFD 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 LFD tests are specific and sensitive enough to be deployed for mass testing, including for asymptomatic people.

What will this test tell me?

If you get a positive result, it is likely that you were infectious at the time the test was taken. The antigen test cannot detect very low levels of coronavirus in a sample, so if you have only recently been infected, are in the incubation period, or if you have mostly recovered, the test may not give a positive result.

Do I have to take this test?

No. We are hoping that many people will recognise the benefits of getting involved in twice-weekly testing to reduce the spread of the virus and protect other members of society.

What should I do if I have coronavirus symptoms?

If you have coronavirus symptoms – high temperature, continuous cough or loss of / change in taste or smell – you must self-isolate and book a PCR test or by calling 119.

Are LFD tests used in surge testing?

Variants of concern (VOC) are monitored by testing a sample of the COVID-19 virus to map its genetic sequence. This process is called genomic sequencing and is used to identify variants in a PCR positive sample. This process is not carried out on LFD positive samples.

Surge testing is increased PCR testing of people who do not have any Covid-19 symptoms (including door-to-door testing in some areas) and enhanced contact tracing in specific locations in England, in response to Covid cases where they are a variant of concern. There is currently no requirement for surge testing in Dorset or Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council areas.

Find out more about how surge testing and genomic sequencing is being used in other parts of England

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