About Lateral Flow testing for people with no symptoms

Lateral flow antigen testing is recommended by the Department for Health and Social Care for use in people with no symptoms and who would otherwise not be tested for COVID-19. The purpose of lateral flow testing is to pick up infections early, or where there are no obvious symptoms. This will help to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. The test detects the presence or absence of coronavirus by applying a swab or saliva sample to the device’s absorbent pad. The sample runs along the surface of the pad, showing at the end a visual positive or negative result dependent on the presence of the virus.

Do not use a lateral flow test if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Order or book a PCR test instead

Everyone without symptoms aged 11 and over should take a rapid lateral flow test:

Tests are free, and can be completed at test sites where available, or at home using home testing kits. Test results can be uploaded to NHS Test and Trace.

Lateral flow testing kits are safe to use on children aged two to ten, but their frequent use is not recommended due to discomfort. Parents or carers should administer tests on these children.

At this time, taking a PCR test to confirm a positive lateral flow test result is not required. People testing positive should isolate in line with NHS guidance

Please note that isolation times for many people have been reduced, and consecutive negative lateral flow tests results from days five and six of the isolation period enables early release. It may take longer for tests to return negative results. You must isolate until you have returned negative lateral flow tests on two consecutive days, or you reach 10-day limit, or until you are symptom free.

Test accuracy

Lateral flow antigen testing has undergone extensive clinical evaluation and has been judged to be accurate and sensitive enough for asymptomatic community testing. As with all types of test it is not 100% accurate so a person testing negative can still be infectious. It is therefore vital to continue to maintain national guidelines on social distancing, hand washing and wearing of face coverings, and limit contact with others where possible, to reduce the risk of transmission.