How to get a lateral flow test and when you should take one to check for Covid

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With the introduction of Covid Plan B putting new emphasis on the need to take lateral flow tests, it is vital you know when to take them, where to get them and how to understand them

New measures, under Plan B, mean that you may need to be testing with lateral flow kits more regularly
New measures, under Plan B, mean that you may need to be testing with lateral flow kits more regularly

As the government introduces Plan B, the nation is once again being asked to follow measures to prevent the spread of Covid as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The new rules will see a return to guidance suggesting people work from home, making facemasks a legal requirement in a range of locations including shops and public transport, daily testing for close contacts of positive cases and Covid passes for nightclubs, unseated outdoor venues of more than 4,000 people and all venues for more than 10,000.

Talking about introducing the restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the move was the, “proportionate and responsible thing” to do as scientists race to uncover the dangers of Omicron.

The new regulations will see increases in the number of people needing to take lateral flow tests, with Covid passes valid if an unvaccinated holder has returned a negative lateral flow test in the last 48 hours.

Here’s everything you need to know about where to get a lateral flow test, how to read the results and more.

Where can you get a lateral flow test?

Testing is an important part of the Omicron response
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The best place to start is to find out if you are able to get lateral flow tests through your workplace, school or university.

However, this option won’t be available to everyone, in which case they can be ordered from the NHS website.

These lateral flow tests will be delivered to your home in a matter of days. If you are unable to use the online service, you can also order them by calling the free number 119 between 7am and 11pm.

Luckily, the tests are generally free for all purposes apart from travel.

You can also go and collect them in person at pharmacies like Boots or Lloyds, as well as some community centres. Getting tests in this way is also usually free.

A pack has seven tests, one for each day of the week. And, in some cases, you will be able to get two packs at once.

When should you take a lateral flow test?

People who are socialising often should take lateral flow tests regularly, while the new rules also create more times when you need to take them.

You mainly need to take lateral flow tests if you are unvaccinated and need a Covid pass, or if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive, in which case you will need to test every day.

If you develop Covid symptoms you will need to take a PCR test, but close contacts with no symptoms will still need to take lateral flows.

They are best taken when you are due to go into an area where the spread of the disease is likely to be higher, like places with big crowds or where vulnerable people will be present.

Make sure you take your test no more than 24 hours before the event you plan to attend for the best possible protection.

Test results can be registered via the barcode strip by going on the government website.

When does an infection show on a lateral flow test?

The following day may often be too soon to check if you picked up the virus if you are worried you came into contact with it.

Antigen tests, like lateral flows, are less sensitive than PCRs and so require a higher viral load to show a positive result – this can lead to false positives.

However, if you do have a positive result on your lateral flow test, you will see a line against both the ‘C’ and ‘T’ markers on the test, rather than just on the ‘C’ marker.

So, two lines, even if they are faint, mean you are positive for Coronavirus and will need to report this on the government website.

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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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