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Symptom-free testing

Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms and can therefore spread the virus without knowing.

Symptom-free testing (also known as rapid testing or community testing) uses lateral flow device tests (LFDs) to identify people who do not have coronavirus symptoms but may be infectious.

This helps us identify and isolate more people who might spread coronavirus without knowing.

Lateral flow tests are safe, inexpensive and approved by the government. Read our FAQs or watch our video about self-testing to find out more.

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

The LFT cannot detect very low levels of coronavirus in a sample. For example, you might not get a positive test result if:

  • You have only recently been infected
  • You are in the incubation period
  • You have mostly recovered from coronavirus

Tests are voluntary. However, taking regular tests shows you're doing what you can to help protect those around you, including loved ones, friends, workmates and customers.

Children aged under 11 years do not need to get a symptom-free test. Children aged under 11 only need to get a tested if they have symptoms - find out how.

Public Health England have advised there are currently limited public health benefits attached to testing primary pupils with lateral flow devices. The case and transmission rates amongst primary age pupils are currently lower than those in secondary age pupils. Primary age pupils may find the LFD testing process invasive and unpleasant and are unable to self-swab. For these reasons there are no plans to pilot LFD testing.

It takes less than 15 minutes to have the test.
The test takes around 30 minutes to give a result.
If you test positive with the LFT, you must start self-isolating straight away and have a PCR test (a swab test that is analysed in a laboratory). To get a PCR test, follow our instructions on how to get a test if you have symptoms.
You continue to follow the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus.

We want to identify people who do not have coronavirus symptoms but who are infectious as they could unknowingly spread the infection to others.

Identifying and supporting infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce the spread of the virus.

Lateral flow devices tests do not require a laboratory to process the test.

The sample is applied to the lateral flow device's absorbent pad. The sample runs along the surface of the pad, visually showing a positive or negative result after 30 minutes.

If the sample was taken during an observed test, test processing is done by trained personnel.
The UK Government has been purchasing kits. The cost per kit is not disclosed due to commercial confidentiality and sensitivities.
The current position is that these will not be available to purchase on the market.
If you have any of the coronavirus symptoms you must self-isolate straightway and get a test for people who have coronavirus symptoms.

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