Lateral Flow Testing Q&A

Berkshire's Testing Programme

Can you explain Berkshire's testing programme?

Local authorities in Berkshire are introducing community testing programmes, also referred to as rapid testing. Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) (sometimes also known as Lateral Flow Devices or LFDs) will be offered to critical and key workers and anyone who is required to leave home for work or a crucial activity, or for the management of local Covid-19 outbreaks.

If you are eligible you will be invited to book a test.

LFT testing is also being offered to staff, residents and visitors at care homes as part of a national programme.

When does the testing start?

LFT testing has started in some parts of Berkshire and is being rolled out across the county during January and February 2021.

Who can be tested?

The tests are for members of the relevant communities who are NOT displaying Covid-19 symptoms.

Why should people take part?

We aim to identify positive cases of Covid-19 in people who do not have symptoms but who are infected and are infectious, and who could spread the infection to others unknowingly. Identifying and supporting positive Covid-19 cases, and ensuring people with a positive result self-isolate, will reduce transmission to others.

How long does it take to do the LFT?

It takes just a few minutes to do the test.

How long does it take to get the result?

The LFT produces a result within 30-60 minutes.

How will I find out about the results of my test?

You will be contacted with the results of your test using the contact information you provided at the test centre.

Do I have to take the test?

While it's not mandatory to take part, we very much hope that everyone will recognise the benefits of getting involved in local testing to reduce the spread of the virus in their communities.

Will people be paid to take a test?


What about people who cannot get to a test site?

Temporary test sites are being set up in local venues across Berkshire to enable access for as many people as possible.

What will the test tell me?

The test result will confirm if you do or do not have Covid-19.

If you get a positive result, it is likely that you were infectious at the time the test was taken.

The test cannot detect very low levels of coronavirus in a sample, so if you have only recently been infected, and are in the incubation period, or if you have mostly recovered from the virus, the test may give a negative result. If you have been asked by your employer to have a test, they may ask you to have another test in a few days. You must continue to observe the guidelines on preventing the spread of coronavirus: Hands, Face, Space.

What should I do if I test positive?

If your LFT is positive, it is imperative that you and your contacts self-isolate at home for at least 10 days, and anyone in your household or support bubble must self-isolate for 10 days, away from friends and family.

Follow the government's guidelines on self-isolation here.

Stay as far away from other members of your household as possible, especially if they are clinically extremely vulnerable. Wherever possible, avoid using shared spaces such as kitchens and other living areas while others are present, and take your meals back to your room to eat. Wear a face covering or surgical mask when spending time in shared areas inside your home. Take exercise within your home, garden or private outdoor space, and follow the general guidelines to reduce the spread of infection within your household.

Ensure you follow the instructions and guidance provided by NHS Test and Trace when they get in touch to identify your contacts after your positive LFT.

Eligible people who test positive will be entitled to the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment in the same way as with a regular swab test through NHS Test and Trace. Please note the government has laid down eligibility criteria.

What happens if I test negative?

If your LFT is negative, you should continue to follow the government's guidelines for stopping the spread of the virus: Hands. Face. Space.

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

Test and Trace

If you are contacted by Test and Trace, stay at home. Even if you had a negative LFT recently you could still be infectious, so it's important to isolate for 10 days if you've been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

About the LFT

What is an LFT?

Around 1 in 3 people who have Covid-19 are asymptomatic, which means they have Covid-19 and are infectious, although not showing symptoms. These people are highly likely to spread the virus to others. LFT is a new kind of technology that will enable us to identify and isolate more asymptomatic people. By identifying these asymptomatic positive cases more quickly, we will help to break the chain of transmission.

How does the LFT work?

An LFT detects the presence or absence of coronavirus from a swab sample. The sample is mixed with a solution which releases and breaks up virus fragments. Some of the solution is then dropped onto the lateral flow device. The sample runs along the surface of the device's absorbent strip, and 30-60 minutes later it will display either a positive or negative test result for Covid-19.

How are the LFTs processed?

LFTs do not require a laboratory to process the test. They are processed at the dedicated testing site by trained personnel.

Are Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) less accurate than Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests?

LFT and PCR tests have different characteristics and different uses. PCR tests are more sensitive but need to be processed in a laboratory, which means it takes longer to get the results.

While LFTs are less sensitive than PCR tests, they deliver results much faster and do not require a laboratory. This makes LFTs ideal for testing large numbers of asymptomatic people and getting their test results to them faster than with PCR technology. LFTs also work well when the person being tested has a high viral load (a lot of the virus in their system), which helps us identify the prevalence of the new Covid-19 variant.

LFTs enable us to identify a larger percentage of people who are infected and infectious, but asymptomatic and unaware of the fact that they are possibly spreading Covid-19.

Do these tests work for people without symptoms?

LFTs are validated technology. The test is safe, inexpensive and the results are trusted. Extensive clinical evaluation from Public Health England and the University of Oxford shows LFTs are specific and sensitive enough to be used for community testing, including for asymptomatic people, which means people who have the virus but don't have any symptoms.

How much does each LFT cost? And will it be available to buy on the market?

The UK government has been purchasing LFT kits. The current position is that these will not be available for members of the public to purchase. The cost per kit is not disclosed due to commercial confidentiality and sensitivities.

If you have coronavirus symptoms

Please book a test if you have symptoms of coronavirus - high temperature, continuous cough or loss of/change in taste or smell - at or by calling 119. Only leave your house in an emergency or if you need to go to a test centre. Otherwise, self-isolate at home until you have received the results of your test. If your test is positive, you and the people in your household and support bubble must self-isolate for 10 days.