What is a Covid lateral flow test, how accurate are they and where can I book one?

REGULAR rapid testing for people without coronavirus symptoms is being rolled out, the Government has announced.

The Covid lateral flow tests are able to return results in just 30 minutes, and will be prioritised for people who cannot work from home.

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What is a Covid lateral flow test?

A Covid lateral flow test uses a swab from a patient's nose or throat to quickly determine if they are infected with coronavirus.

The sample is added to a tube and tested using a special solution that gives results in around 30 minutes.

They are useful due to their quick turnaround, and are fairly simple to administer.

The Gov.uk website says: "We know that between one in four and one in three people who have coronavirus never show any symptoms but that does not mean they are not infectious.

"These devices can help identify people who have high levels of virus who do not have symptoms and would not otherwise be coming forward for a test."

Lateral flow tests are also already regularly used to check for other illnesses, as well as being used in environmental testing, animal health, food and feed testing, and plant and crop health.

How accurate is a Covid lateral flow test?

Back in December the accuracy of the quick tests was questioned after lateral flow devices used in the community testing rollout in Liverpool missed half the cases, reports the British Medical Journal.

And Professor Jon Deeks of the University of Birmingham sparked concern after sharing unpublished test results on social media which suggested the tests had given 58 per cent false positives.

However, the Liverpool trial found that regular, rapid testing cut transmission by 90 per cent and can help Britain to "get back to normal," Health Minister Lord Bethel said back in November.

But now the Government insists they can be "reliably used" to detect coronavirus, although they are not a "silver bullet" to stop the virus, the Gov.uk website adds.

It says: "Public Health England and Oxford University have performed extensive clinical validation and field evaluations to assess and understand the performance of the tests we are using in communities and care homes."

The tests are already been used on many university campuses across the country, although some unis are advising students to take two tests, three days apart to be absolutely sure of the result.

Where can I book a Covid lateral flow test?

The tests are currently being rolled out to local councils across the UK.

Staff at all 317 councils will be eligible for free kits to test critical workers and those who must leave home for essential reasons, such as social workers and housing officials.

It is then up to the local authorities to determine how the tests will be adminsitered through their community testing program.

You can book a test by getting in touch with your local council, find out more information here.

Can you buy a Covid lateral flow test?

Yes, you can buy Covid lateral flow tests online.

However, the accuracy of an online test kit that has not been approved by a regulator cannot be guaranteed and a test result could be incorrect.

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