The lifting of lockdown measures across the UK will see the concept of testing and tracing make a return as a vital aspect of controlling the spread of coronavirus.
Anyone who has shown symptoms of the disease has been able to get a test since last April, but the hope is that anyone, regardless of symptoms, will be able to get a test in a bid to identify all potential cases – including asymptomatic ones, to halt the spread of the virus.
The messaging from both the government and the NHS has been clear throughout the entirety of the pandemic, if you display any of the three "classic" symptoms of Covid-19, which are:
- a fever
- a new, persistent cough
- a loss of smell or taste
you should seek to get a test immediately.
How do I get a test?
There are a number of ways you can access a test, the easiest route is most likely to book your time slot at a drive-thru, walk-in centre or mobile testing unit as soon as you start displaying symptoms of any kind.
You can also order a home testing kit within the first four days of having symptoms. If you aren't actually showing any symptoms of the virus but would still like to get tested, reach out to your local council to see if they are offering asymptomatic testing.
What are the different types of test?
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The most commonly used test is the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which is deployed to determine whether you're currently infected at the moment of the test.
These tests are conducted via a a nose and throat swab, which is then sent to a lab for processing.
It will usually take at least two days to find out your results, but there are rapid turnaround versions of these tests, though they are mostly available in hospitals.
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"Lateral Flow" tests are more widely available now than at any other point during the pandemic, they are a handheld kit that gives a result within 30 minutes and are expected to be used to test schoolchildren ahead of their return to the classroom on March 8.
It is important to note that these are less sensitive and will actually miss more cases of the virus, particularly in people who have mild infections.
There are now also blood tests used to identify antibodies, which will determine past, rather than current, infections.
These are more common in hospitals and big labs to help scientists determine what percentage of the population has already had COVID-19.
Can you get private testing?
Some clinics and health centres across the UK are offering private testing, prices vary, but are often roughly £100-£200 for a swab test to show if you're currently infected – or £50-£100 to determine whether you have previously had COVID-19 via an antibody test.
Tests must have a ''CE mark'' to show they meet all legal criteria.
If your test result returns positive, the test supplier must let your local health authority know so that they can keep tabs on any potential outbreaks.
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