FAQs for testing
Below are testing FAQs related to testing.
They have been grouped into sections to help make navigation easier for you.
1. What is rapid community testing?
Community testing is a new testing programme offer for regions across the UK, to help provide a route to move down tier levels for the highest risk areas.
On Sunday 10th January 2021, the Government announced that rapid, regular COVID-19 testing (lateral flow devices or LFDs) would be made available across England from this week for critical workers (those who cannot work from home).
2. Why has rapid community testing been announced?
The single most important action we can all take to protect the NHS and save lives, is to stay at home. However, as many people need to continue to work in critical roles, it is important we continue to find as many positive cases as we can.
LFDs can help with find people who do not know they have the virus, helping them to then isolate more quickly and avoid passing on the infection in their work / school settings. It does not enable us to go back to a normal way of life.
We must all continue to follow infection prevention and national guidance both in and outside of the workplace.
3. What is Lateral Flow Device (LFD) testing and how does it work?
Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) are a type of technology that allow rapid testing for COVID‐19.
A swab is inserted into the nose and throat; the test kit is then inserted into a fluid and some drops of this are put on a lateral flow device kit. This then gives a result in the form of coloured lines indicating a positive or negative result – a little like a pregnancy test – usually within an hour (the most commonly used test will give a result in about 30 mins).
4. How is a Lateral Flow device different to a PCR test?
PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing (sometimes called a swab test) has been available now since summer last year to anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19. There are is a drive through site at Hempsted Meadows, Gloucester and mobile sites move around other parts of the county.
The PCR test is the “gold standard” for testing but the results need to be processed in a laboratory and so it usually takes between 24 to 72 hours for someone in the community to get their test result back. This does not matter for people who have symptoms as they should be at home self-isolating while they wait for their test result.
Lateral Flow Devices use a similar swab to collect the sample, but these swabs are processed and provide results in 30 minutes. This is why they can have a use for people who do not have symptoms but who are still infectious because, even though they miss some people who have the virus, it can identify people who did not know they were infected. If these people isolate quickly they can avoid passing the virus on to people.
5. How effective is rapid testing?
No test is perfect. The most accurate test we have for COVID-19 is the “PCR” test that is available when people have symptoms (ii). Test results can take a day or so to come back, but are usually very accurate and means that people can be reasonably confident in these results and continue to self-isolate if it comes back positive.
Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) can give a much quicker result (usually within an hour) but these tests are not as accurate as PCR tests. A negative LFD test is not a 100% guarantee that you do not have the virus. However, lateral flow tests tend to detect individuals in their most infectious period. As 1 in 3 people may have the virus and never get symptoms, this can be a useful tool in the box to find extra cases of COVID-19 before the virus is passed on.
In an evaluation of the mass community testing pilot in Liverpool, compared to PCR tests, these tests picked up 5 out of 10 of the cases that PCR tests detected and more than 7 out of 10 cases with higher viral loads (amounts of the virus in their nose and throat), who are likely to be the most infectious. This means that the tests missed between 3 to 5 out of every ten infectious people.
Because of this, people need to both continue to “act like they have the virus” even if their test result is negative and ensure that they wash their hands, socially distance and wear face coverings.
Also, this means regular testing is key. If you are having contacts with other people regularly, you could have caught the virus and started to pass it on, even if a recent test showed you are negative.
6. Will LFDs pick up the new strains of COVID-19?
Yes the LFDs will pick up the known new strains.
7. Is it compulsory to take this test?
No. We're hoping that many people will recognise the benefits of getting involved in local testing efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in their communities.
8. Why should people take part?
We aim to identify people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms but who are infectious and could spread the infection to others unknowingly. Identifying and supporting infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce spread.
9. Do I still have to go for testing if I've received the COVID-19 vaccination?
Current advice for those vaccinated is that they continue with all current guidance and advice with regards to COVID-19 restrictions; this includes testing.