In recent encouraging news, Test and Trace figures showed positive coronavirus tests in England are down 34 percent in a week. This may be partly down to the drastic ramp-up in quick lateral flow testing, now widely available for free to the public.
Where to go to get a test near you
If you want to get a quick test – with results in about 30 minutes – you can enter your postcode and search HERE for testing sites.
However, you might find it easier to order kits to your home.
You can request your kits HERE – this will provide you with seven lateral flow tests to take at home.
You can also head HERE to find a pharmacy or other location near you where you can collect tests to do at home.
READ MORE: Travel after Covid: Will holidays EVER be the same again?
Now, however, hopes are growing that lateral flow tests are a useful mass testing tool.
Currently, anyone who receives a positive lateral flow test needs to isolate and order a follow-up PCR test, which is the most accurate test for coronavirus detection.
Professor Oliver Johnson, director of the institute for statistical science at the University of Bristol, said: “This [data] suggests that people who test positive using a lateral flow device should definitely take that result seriously, and isolate while waiting for a follow-up PCR test.
“The fact that a high proportion of these rapid tests have been confirmed by the slower PCR method means that they can be a valuable tool in controlling the pandemic.”
However, the data doesn’t show how many people who received a negative test result did in fact have COVID-19.
New data show 26,144,449 lateral flow results were recorded by Public Health England in the four weeks from March 8 to April 4.
The vast majority – some 99.88 percent – were negative for coronavirus, leaving another 30,904 cases where a positive result was found.
Just over half of those were sent off to a laboratory for a follow-up PCR test, which are far slower to process but can detect much lower levels of virus in the sample, although a positive result doesn’t always mean someone is capable of passing the virus on to others.
Of those, 18 percent came back negative, suggesting the individual concerned and their household had been self-isolating for no reason.
Under the current rules, a negative re-test would mean their quarantine period would be considered over immediately.
However, the other 82 percent returned the same positive result, indicating that the original test was accurate and they did have the virus.
Prof Johnson said: “It may be that in future months the prevalence of Covid in the population will fall, in which case a greater proportion of positive lateral flow tests would be false positives.
“However, these results indicate that, at the coronavirus levels seen in March, a positive result had a very good chance of coming from an infected person, so that these tests had genuine value as a tool in fighting the pandemic.”