Lateral flow testing questions

About lateral flow tests

What are lateral flow tests?

The tests being used for Community Testing on the Island are called lateral flow tests or LFTs and are given to people without any symptoms of COVID-19. Lateral flow tests involve taking a swab in the throat or nose and then placing it in a test tube. If positive, a coloured line appears on the device within 30 minutes. They are different to the PCR tests used for people with symptoms which require a laboratory to process results.

How is a lateral flow test different to a PCR test?

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) is the type of testing that is available at Newclose. It is for people who have symptoms of COVID-19. The PCR test is the “gold standard” for testing but the results need to be processed in a laboratory and so it usually takes between 24 to 72 hours for someone in the community to get their test result back. People who have symptoms should be at home self-isolating while they wait for their test result.

Lateral flow tests use a similar swab to collect the sample, but swabs processed using lateral flow tests provide results quickly. They are used for people who do not have symptoms but who are still infectious; even though they miss some people who have the virus, they can identify people who did not know they were infected. If these people isolate quickly, they can avoid passing the virus on to other people.

How accurate are lateral flow tests?

Lateral flow tests are less accurate than the usual PCR COVID-19 tests that are sent to the laboratory for processing. Results from lateral flow tests have reduced sensitivity, which means that they do not always correctly generate a positive result for people with COVID-19. They find at least half of the cases that PCR testing detect and about three-quarters of those who have very high amounts of virus present. This is why two tests a week are recommended – to pick up cases which were not detected during the first test and to catch any new infections.

It is important to note that a negative result with a lateral flow test does not mean you do not have COVID-19, and you must continue to adhere to the COVID-19 rules should you test negative, including regular hand washing, wearing a face covering, and social distancing (hands, face, and space).

Why are lateral flow tests being used?

Despite lateral flow tests being less accurate than the usual PCR COVID-19 tests, they may still pick-up cases of COVID-19 in people without any symptoms. This can break the chain of COVID-19 transmission and save lives.

Should I take a lateral flow test if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

No. Lateral flow tests are only for people without symptoms of COVID-19. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you must self-isolate and book a PCR test.

What should I do if NHS Test & Trace have asked me to self-isolate because I am a contact of someone with COVID-19, but I have tested negative on a lateral flow test?

You must follow the NHS Test & Trace advice to self-isolate when asked to do so, even with a negative test result from a lateral flow test. This is because lateral flow tests are less accurate than usual PCR COVID-19 tests and are not a guarantee that you don’t have COVID-19. As a contact you are at higher risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 so you must follow the stay at home guidance and book a PCR test if you develop any of the COVID-19 symptoms.

Should I take a lateral flow device test if I have been vaccinated?

Yes. If you have been vaccinated, you should still take lateral flow tests when indicated. This is because we do not yet know whether vaccination prevents the transmission of COVID-19.

Getting tested

What is rapid community testing?

Community testing is a new programme for testing people without COVID-19 symptoms to help reduce transmission of coronavirus. Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 have no symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it.

Why has rapid response community testing been announced for people who can’t work at home?

The single most important action we can all take to protect the NHS and save lives is to stay at home. Many people still need to go out to work and it is important we continue to find as many positive cases as we can.
Lateral flow tests can help find people who do not know they have the virus, helping them to then isolate more quickly and avoid passing on the infection in their work settings.

This type of testing does not enable us to go back to a normal way of life. We must all continue to follow #HandsFaceSpace and national guidance both in and outside of the workplace.

Who can get a test?

Some workers are already able to get tests. These include NHS staff, care home staff and school staff. We are targeting workers who cannot work from home and who cannot access testing via other programmes including:

  • Local authority frontline workers (not covered by other programmes).
  • Early years settings (not covered by national programme such as childminders, non-maintained nurseries)
  • Retail including supermarkets
  • Construction and maintenance
  • Some transport workers / hubs (including ferry, taxis, bus drivers)
  • Volunteers, including those supporting local authorities and emergency services in supporting the welfare of local residents.

We are prioritising those at high risk of transmitting the virus, particularly those who are in contact with vulnerable residents and people working in places where they are most likely to mix with those from many other households.
This is where testing will have the biggest impact – both in terms of reducing transmission of the virus and to support the delivery of key services.

How often should I be tested?

You should commit to having two tests per week, with a gap of 3 to 5 days between tests in a seven day period.

How long does it take to do the test and how long does it take to get the result?

It takes less than 15 minutes to administer the lateral flow device test. The test takes around 30 minutes to produce a result. If you use a smartphone you’ll be notified of your result by email or text message.

Before you come for your appointment

If possible, we recommend that you register your details and create an account so that your login information is saved for next time at – this will help save time at the test centre. You will only need to do this once. You do not have to create an account if you do not want to.

At the test centre

Every time you arrive at the test centre you will be given a registration card with a barcode for the test you are about to take. The same barcode will be on the test sample you take.

You will need to input the barcode for you test (manually or via a QR code) to the above website. Staff will be available to answer any questions you might have. You will also be prompted to answer a few other details about yourself to help better understand the spread of COVID-19. Please also note that you will need to register the site reference code which is available on site.

By completing the steps above, you will receive your results by text or email.

You can use the same registration details on every visit, however you will receive a new barcode every time you go for a test.

Do I have to have a smart phone to take the test?

No. But you do need to book online or by calling 01983 823660. Staff at the test centre will help you register your details so you can get the results of your test.

What should I do if I test positive?

If your test is positive you must self-isolate straight away along with everyone you live with. This is a legal requirement. You’ll need to self-isolate from the date of the first test plus the next 10 days. You may become eligible for support payments and your contacts will need to be traced.

If I get a negative test, can I hug my friends/relatives or ignore social distancing?

No. You must continue to follow government guidance. It is important to remember that the lateral flow tests can miss people who are positive. Even with a negative test, you need to keep socially distanced from others, wash your hands regularly and wear face coverings.

Why should people take part?

We aim to identify people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms but who are infectious and could spread the infection to others unknowingly. Identifying and supporting infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce spread.

Why should employers encourage their staff to take part?

By offering free community testing to all workers who cannot work at home, we will be able to quickly identify anyone who may be unknowingly passing the virus on to others. This will help to safeguard your workforce and provide business continuity. It will also protect your customers and the wider Island community.

Island test centre info

Where can I get a test on the Isle of Wight?

Is parking available?

Pay and display parking is available at The Heights.
Parking is available in the ‘Inner car park’ behind County Hall. This car park is accessible from Sea Street.
There is no charge to park at The Learning and Development Centre, Westridge.

Disabled parking is available at all sites:

  • At County Hall there are 2 spaces on the High street, pretty much adjacent to the main entrance. There is 1 disabled space before the ramp to the inner car park.
  • At Westridge there are 2 spaces in the main car park. You have to walk the long way around to access the ramp down.
  • At The Heights there are multiple bays very near to the main entrance.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

Please get a coronavirus test on NHS.UK online or call 119 if you have any symptoms of coronavirus:

National restrictions
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