Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that everyone in England will be given access to two lateral flow Covid-19 tests a week from Friday, April 9.
These coronavirus testing kits can provide results in around 30 minutes, and will help squash any outbreaks as England prepares for the next stage in easing lockdown.
On Monday April 5, The PM confirmed the next stage could go ahead, which means non-essential shops can open from April 12, and pubs and restaurants can start serving outdoors.
Mr Johnson added that regular testing is key to the continued easing of lockdown, and all adults, even those without symptoms, will be urged to get themselves tested twice a week.
He said: “As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.
“That's why we're now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England – helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.”
What are lateral flow tests?
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Lateral flow tests are antigen tests that can provide results in as fast as 30 minutes.
The tests look for antigens – proteins on the surface of the virus to detect if a person has Covid-19.
These tests are used to quickly identify symptomatic and asymptomatic people – and there is no need for laboratory equipment.
However, they are not as sensitive as the PCR tests, but for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than one false positive result.
How is the lateral flow test taken?
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After you've checked that all the elements of the kit are present, blow your nose and wash your hands, then open the swab packaging.
When you’re ready, you put the fabric end into one nostril until you feel a slight resistance (about 1.5 cm or half an inch in), and roll it about 10 times, then the same on the other nostril.
Some tests will be for throats, in which case you swab your tonsils, or where they were, four times on each side.
Once this is done you open the packet of liquid and squeeze it into the small vial.
Then you put the swab with the fabric end down, into the bottom of the tube of liquid, pressing against the edge of the tube while rotating it for about 10 seconds.
Take the swab out, disposing of it correctly, and then press the cap down tightly on the tub.
Turn it upside down before squeezing two drops onto the specimen well, and place it on a flat surface for 30 minutes.
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If two lines show up on the strip it’s a positive result, if it’s one line on the top it’s negative, and if it’s one line on the bottom the test is invalid.
You then have to report your test result on gov.uk/report-covid19-result.
If you test positive you have to start self-isolating immediately and book a confirmatory PCR test.
How to get a free lateral flow test
From April 9, all adults in England will be able to order a test kit to their home, pick one up at a local site or through a workplace or school programme.
The test are available through:
- a home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home
- 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 new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service is also launching. People aged over 18 without symptoms will be able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of 7 rapid tests to use twice a week at home.
For more information head to the government website.
How will lateral flow tests ease lockdown?
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The government says that alongside vaccination, regular Covid-19 testing is an essential part of easing lockdown restrictions.
This is because it will help quickly success the spread of variants.
One in three people with coronavirus are said to be asymptomatic, meaning they could be spreading it unwittingly.
Mr Johnson said that helping to stop outbreaks is vital so that we can “get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that “reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly”.
Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England added: "Rapid testing helps us find COVID-19 cases that we wouldn't otherwise know about, helping to break chains of transmission.
"I encourage everyone to take up the offer of these free rapid tests – they are quick and easy to carry out in your own home."
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