Twice-weekly rapid testing to be available to everyone in England from 9 April

Regular Covid-19 tests will help us return to normality

From Friday 9 April, the government will make 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 testing is important

Vaccines are helping to protect us against the effects of Covid-19 but, as cases, deaths and hospitalisation admissions continue to decrease, the importance of testing and tracing increases.

Around one in three people with coronavirus has no symptoms. Twice-weekly testing using LFDs has already protected millions of people who need to leave home for work, including frontline NHS workers, care home staff and residents, and schoolchildren and their families.

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!

Now that we are on the roadmap to easing lockdown restrictions, getting tested regularly will help break the chain of transmission that causes the virus to spread. People with Covid-19 and no symptoms can spread it without even knowing.

In addition, testing and tracing helps to identify new outbreaks and get them under control, as well as spotting new variants as the virus mutates.

Who can get 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. 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.

How to get your LFD tests

You can get your tests in any of the following ways:

  • workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home
  • community testing, offered by all local authorities
  • collection at a local PCR test site during specific test collection time windows
  • testing on-site at schools and colleges
  • 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

A new Pharmacy Collect service is available for people aged over 18, without coronavirus symptoms, to collect a box of 7 lateral flow device tests to be used twice a week at home. Click here for a list of participating pharmacies https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/.

Are the tests effective?

Yes. LFDs detect cases with high levels of the coronavirus and are very effective in finding people who don’t have symptoms but are very likely to transmit the disease without knowing it.

Recent analysis from NHS Test and Trace shows that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than 1 false positive result. When the rates of infection are high, the tests are more accurate. But when the infection rates are lower, there is less virus to test and therefore the tests can provide false positive results. This is why it is so important to have a PCR within two days after a positive LFD test result.

Why should I test myself twice weekly?

LFDs are easy to use and give quick results, so anyone who tests positive can self-isolate immediately and avoid passing the virus to others.

While the vaccine offers a way out in the future, twice-weekly rapid testing offers us a way forward now.

Getting into the habit of twice-weekly testing as part of our everyday lives will help us all to play our part and do what we can to keep each other safe. Alongside the vaccine, twice-weekly testing will help ensure we can continue to ease our way out of lockdown.

Even if you get a negative test result, it’s important to test regularly and don’t forget to keep following social distancing guidelines – hands, face, space and fresh air.

What if I get a positive result from a Lateral Flow test?

It remains essential that anyone who gets a positive result from an LFD test self-isolates immediately, as must other members of their household, while they get a confirmatory PCR test within two days. Remember to self-isolate while you are waiting for your PCR test and also until you get the results of your PCR test. If your PCR test comes back positive, then you must self-isolate for 10 days. That means staying at home, not mixing with household members, not leaving the house.

You may be eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment (find out if you are eligible here).

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.

How does contract tracing work?

Contact tracing will be triggered by a positive LFD result, but will be stopped automatically after receipt of a negative confirmatory PCR test, if the PCR was taken within two days of the positive LFD result.

The more we test, the more cases we will find, the quicker we will control the spread. Take the test.