Lateral Flow Testing

Twice-weekly rapid testing 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, twice-weekly lateral flow device (LFD) tests available to every person in England who does not have Covid-19 symptoms. As we emerge from lockdown, regular testing in the months ahead can help us all get back to normal.

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)

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 twice-weekly rapid coronavirus tests?

Everyone in England who does not have coronavirus symptoms will be able to access free, regular, rapid LFDs for themselves and their families to use twice a week, in line with clinical guidance. Find out how to get your tests here. The government is encouraging everyone to take regular tests to help:

  • prevent outbreaks
  • control the spread of variants and
  • reclaim a more normal way of life
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:

  • 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.

How do I register my LFD test results?

If testing at home, individuals will need to register their results online or call 119. They should self-isolate if positive and order a confirmatory PCR test. Remember to self-isolate while you are waiting for your PCR test and until you get the results of your PCR test.

What should I do if my LFD result is positive?
  • If your LFD is positive, it is imperative you self-isolate at home for at least 10 days.
  • You will also need to take a PCR test to confirm your positive result. You can order a PCR test online or by calling 119.
  • A PCR test is processed by a laboratory and the results are usually available within 48 hours. You must self-isolate until you receive the result of your PCR test.
  • Follow the government’s guidance on self-isolation here.
  • Ensure you follow the instructions and guidance provided by NHS Test and Trace when they get in touch to identify your contacts.
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.

How to do a rapid test at home

Throat and nose test: blue and white pack
Nose-only test: green and white pack (Orient Gene)

For more information about LFD tests, please visit our Q&A page here.