Lateral Flow Testing
Anyone in England self-isolating with Covid-19 can now end their self-isolation period early as long as they test negative on day 5 and day 6 and they do not have a temperature. Both tests must be taken 24 hours apart. Individuals who are still testing positive on their LFD tests on day 5, must continue to self-isolate until they receive two consecutive negative test results taken on separate days 24 hours apart, or until they complete the full 10 days’ isolation, whichever is soonest. For more information see Gov.uk.
Free rapid lateral flow tests are available to everyone in England who does not have Covid-19 symptoms
Regular Covid-19 tests will help us return to normality
The government has made free rapid LFD tests available to every person in England who does not have Covid-19 symptoms. Regular testing on days when you are more likely to catch or spread Covid-19 can help us all get back to normal.
For example, do a test before you:
- mix with people in crowded indoor places
- visit someone who is at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
The government has also strongly advised that anyone aged 5 years and over, who has been identified as a contact of someone with Covid-19 and who is not legally required to self-isolate, should take a rapid LFD test every day for 7 days or until 10 days since their last contact with the person who tested positive for Covid-19 if this is earlier.
What to do if you receive a positive LFD result:
If any of your LFD tests are positive, you are required to self-isolate immediately and won’t be required to take a confirmatory PCR test. This is a temporary measure while Covid-19 rates remain high across the UK. You must self-isolate for 10 full days starting from the date the positive test was taken. For more information click here
You may be eligible to end your 10 day self-isolation 4 days early. If you receive a negative LFD results on day 5 and day 6 of your self-isolation period – with tests taken 24 hours apart – you no longer have to self-isolate for the full 10 days. The first test must be taken no earlier than day 5 of your self-isolation period. Isolation should not be ended early if you are experiencing symptoms. If you are eligible to end isolation on day 6, you are strongly advised to limit contact with vulnerable people, not visit crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, and work from home. There is no change to the guidance for unvaccinated contacts of positive Covid-19 cases, who are still required to self-isolate for 10 full days after their date of exposure to the virus. More information can be found here.
Anyone who develops 1 of the 3 main Covid-19 symptoms should stay at home, self-isolate and take a PCR test. They must self-isolate if they get a positive test result, even if they have had a recent negative LFD test – these rules have not changed. For more information click here.
Why is testing important?
One in three people who have Covid-19 does not have any symptoms (they are asymptomatic) – so you could have the virus and not know it, yet still be transmitting it to others. Lateral Flow Device tests (LFDs – sometimes called Lateral Flow Tests or LFTs) identify people who are asymptomatic. Anyone who tests positive will be asked to self-isolate.
Community testing using the LFD test enables fast, easy testing of priority and high-risk groups in local communities. Unlike the PCR test, an LFD test does not have to be processed in a laboratory, so it gives much faster results, showing whether a person is infectious at the time of testing. The LFD test requires a swab from your throat and nose (some test kits require nose swabs only). The swab is placed in a tube with a small amount of solution before applying to the test cartridge. The results will be available after about 30 minutes.
Since rapid testing was introduced, over 120,000 positive cases that would not have been found otherwise have already been identified by LFDs, enabling them and their contacts to isolate and help break the chain of transmission. It’s working!
Who is eligible for free rapid lateral flow tests?
Everyone in England who does not have coronavirus symptoms will be able to access free, regular, rapid LFDs for themselves and their families. Find out how to get your tests here. The government is encouraging everyone to take daily lateral flow tests if your are identified as a close contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case and regular tests on days when you are more likely to catch or spread Covid-19 to help:
- prevent outbreaks
- control the spread of variants and
- reclaim a more normal way of life
When do I have to take daily LFD tests?
If you are identified as a contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case, you are strongly advised to take a LFD test every day for 7 days, or until 10 days since your last contact with the person who tested positive for Covid-19 if this is earlier. If any of these LFD tests are positive you should self-isolate and take a PCR test. If this PCR test result is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 full days starting from the date the PCR test was taken. If this PCR test result is negative, you can stop self-isolating but you should continue to take your daily LFD tests. For more information click here.
Am I a critical or key worker?
Read the government’s guidelines here to find out if you are a critical or key worker.
How do I get LFD tests?
You can get your tests in any of the following ways:
- a home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home (you can also order tests by calling 119) but do remember to test first and collect second to ensure you know how to do the LFD test properly
- collect tests to do at home from you local pharmacy or community collect site
- go to a test site near you
- employee and university testing – some employers and universities are offering rapid tests
- school, college and nursery testing – if you attend or work at a school, college or nursery you may be able to get rapid tests through your organisation
LFD testing is for people who do not have Covid-19 symptoms. Remember, if you do have symptoms you can get a free PCR test by going online or calling 119.
If you have tested positive, do not go out to get your lateral flow test kits, isolate and get them delivered. You can order them from www.gov.uk for home delivery.
If I have tested positive, how do I get my LFD tests?
Do not go out to get your lateral flow test kits, isolate and get them delivered. You can order them from www.gov.uk for home delivery.
How do I register my LFD test results?
If testing at home, individuals will need to register their results online or call 119. If your test result is positive, it is likely that you were infectious at the time the test was taken. You must self-isolate immediately and follow the governments guidance. You are no longer required to have a follow-up PCR test. This is a temporary measure while Covid-19 rates remain high across the UK.
What should I do if my LFD result is positive?
If you did a rapid lateral flow test at home or at a test site, and the result is positive:
- self-isolate straight away and follow the government guidance – check if people you live with need to self-isolate
- you are no longer required to take a confirmatory PCR test, this is a temporary measure while the Covid-19 cases remain high across the UK
You may be eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment (find out if you are eligible here).
What should I do if my LFD result is negative?
- If your LFD test is negative, you should continue to follow the government’s guidelines on how to protect yourself and your family from coronavirus, including regularly washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and staying at least 2m apart from anyone not in your household or support bubble.
- If your test is negative but you feel unwell or have any of the following symptoms:
- High temperature
- New and continuous cough
- Loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste
- contact your GP as you would normally or call NHS 111.
For more information and FAQs about LFD tests, please visit our Q&A page here.
How to do a rapid test at home:
To give you confidence in doing the tests properly at home, we recommend you follow the “test first collect second” process. Just turn up at a local testing site and experienced testing staff will share knowledge and expertise with you. Then you can collect your box of tests and head home again.
“An LFD is the testing equivalent of a Formula 1 pitstop. With a rapid turnaround time of 30 minutes for a result, these swab tests can be done from the comfort of a living room and are capable of quickly giving a snap verdict on whether someone is or isn’t likely to be infectious. Just like an experienced mechanic, people get quicker at doing the test, and get better results, the more frequently they carry them out.”
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)