Covid symptoms – what should I do if I test negative but still have coronavirus symptoms?

People with coronavirus symptoms are testing negative on lateral flow tests for Covid-19 despite being certain they have the virus – here’s what you need to know, including how accurate antigen tests are

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Dr Hilary Jones explains nine new symptoms of Covid

Running through the list of Covid symptoms, you realize that you have more than your fair share.

Begrudgingly, you take what feels like your thousandth coronavirus test but, much to your surprise, it comes back negative.

This isn’t an isolated event.

Up and down the country people have been reporting the same issue – but unfortunately, this may not rule you out from having Covid-19.

Rapid antigen tests have lower accuracy than PCR tests, and while they have been (and continue to be) a vital part of the response to the disease, they are prone to mistakes.

Dr Michael Lydeamore, an infectious disease modeller at Monash University, told the Guardian: “Most are probably around a 75% sensitivity.

People with Covid symptoms are finding their antigen tests are coming back negative


Adam Gerrard/Daily Mirror)

“Meaning if you have Covid… you have a 75% chance of testing positive. Compare that to PCRs, which are about 99%. So there’s a big gap there.”

Depending on who you ask this number can be even lower. A meta-analysis from the Cochrane Library says that lateral flow tests detect around 72% of symptomatic cases but only 58% of asymptomatic ones.

What should you do if you test negative but have Covid symptoms?

Covid continues to rip through the UK



Government advice says that if you test negative then it is likely you’re not infectious.

But this doesn’t mean you don’t have the virus and there is in fact still a good chance that you do have it.

If you have symptoms of Covid, the government still recommends that you stay home.

Be sure to avoid close contact with vulnerable people. Lots of people can be made seriously ill by Covid-19 and it is still vital we do everything we possibly can to keep them safe.

As soon as you feel better and have got rid of your temperature you can go back to your day-to-day activities.

In England, the NHS states that people who test positive for Covid should “should stay at home and avoid contact with other people”.

If you are unable to work from home due to the type of work you do, the government advises you should speak to your boss about the options available.

The Welsh government also says that anyone who tests positive should self isolate with tests still available to order for free.

In Scotland, people are advised to self-isolate, but should also get their hands on a PCR test and isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started.

In Northern Ireland you are advised to isolate and take a PCR if you have symptoms – these will remain free until April 22.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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