Five Covid test questions answered – from registering lateral flows to booking PCR tests

As the Omicron Covid variant spreads in different parts of the world, the UK government has brought back masks, testing and other restrictions. Here are five key Covid test questions answered

A health worker does a PCR test on a patient
Rapid flow tests and PCR tests are the two Covid-19 tests you can take to find out if you have been infected

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced travel measures to tackle the Omicron variant, of which there are currently 14 cases.

At a press conference this past weekend, Johnson said that from today, November 30, anyone who enters the UK from abroad must take a PCR test by day two after their arrival, and must also self-isolate until they have received a negative result.

You can’t use NHS tests for this, and need to use a private provider for it. It’s also worth noting that the PCR tests don’t need to be taken on the second day, they can also be taken immediately after you land from overseas.

Under new rules announced last weekend, international travellers need to book a Covid test for day two



Here’s everything you need to know about testing for Covid-19.

How do I order and register the results of a lateral flow test?

Rapid lateral flow tests are the most commonly used at-home tests and help people who may have no symptoms but may still be infectious. These tests usually involve taking swabs from your throat and nose or just the nose.

You can order a pack of the tests either from the site or collect the tests from pharmacies, community centres like libraries or even get tested at a site.

You get the results of your test back in 15 to 30 minutes depending on the type of rapid lateral flow test you’ve taken. Regardless of the result you need to register it within 24 hours of taking the test.

Lateral flow tests are for those who have no symptoms of Covid-19


Getty Images)

To register results you need :

  • the QR code or ID number printed on the test strip (the part of the kit that shows your result)
  • a mobile phone number so we can text you to confirm we’ve got your result

If you need help ordering from the online service or registering your results, you can call 119 which is free for mobiles and landlines. The lines are open every day, from 7am to 11pm.

What does a positive Covid lateral flow test result look like?

If your lateral flow tests has two lines- one next to C and one next to T- this means your result is positive. This means you need to immediately self-isolate and get a PCR test as soon as possible. Continue to self-isolate until your PCR comes back negative.

Your result is negative if there is one line next to C (and no line next to T). If there is one line next to T (and no line next to C), or no lines, this means your test is void and that you need to retest using a new kit.

How can I order a PCR test for travel and who sells them?

To test for travel, you cannot use NHS tests. You need to order a PCR test from private test provider. You can compare and choose a test provider based on cost and whether they are available in your region.

The tests you need to take after you arrive in the UK also depends on whether you qualify as fully vaccinated in the UK and where you have been for 10 days before you arrive in country.

How to book a PCR test if you have Covid symptoms?

PCR tests are mainly for anyone with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). You can do these tests at home but before you do:

If you do the test at home, you must do the following before you do the test:

How long does it take to run a PCR test and get the results?

PCR tests need to be run in the laboratory, and those most people get their result the next day, it may sometimes take up to three days.

Usually you will get a text or email when your result is ready Anyone using the NHS COVID-19 app, may also get your result in the app. If you still don’t have your results by day six, you can call 119 to find out.

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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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