Everyone in Lancashire offered free rapid Covid-19 tests from today
Everyone in Lancashire can now get twice-weekly COVID tests for free under a new effort to keep England out of lockdown.
From today (Friday, April 9), free rapid Covid testing kits for people with no symptoms are being made available to everyone in England, with people encouraged to test themselves twice a week.
Alongside the roll-out of the vaccine, the Government says regular testing is crucial to reopening British society and the economy, with people encouraged to self-test as part of their morning routine.
The rapid tests can be ordered directly to your home and it has been suggested that their regular use will help suppress and control the spread of any possible variants as lockdown restrictions are lifted.
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Lateral flow tests involve a swab in the nose or mouth, with the user able to get the result at home without sending it away.
Residents will also be able to visit participating pharmacies to collect boxes of seven, or take a rapid test at a number of community sites across Lancashire as well as via workplaces and the NHS.
In Preston, free Covid testing for essential workers is moving from the Harris Museum to the Guild Hall from today (Friday, April 9).
Government adverts - the first of which will go out on ITV tonight at 7.15pm - will encourage people to make the test a "habit" and "part of their morning routine".
It has previously stated that it believes “one in three people with Covid-19 do not experience any symptoms and may be spreading the virus unwittingly."
Finding these people, says Lancashire's director of public health, is the main purpose for rolling out rapid self-testing kits, in order to get them to self-isolate and to prevent them spreading the virus.
"Testing regularly will help us reclaim a more normal way of life in Lancashire," says Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire's director of public health.
"Since rapid testing was introduced, more than 120,000 positive cases across England that would not have been found otherwise have been identified.
"By making rapid tests available to everyone, the ability to identify and control variants will be greatly increased.
"This in turn will help break the chains of transmission and save lives by supporting people to self-isolate and to trace their contacts.
"As we begin to return to some form of normality, we must do so by continuing to follow all of the up-do-date Covid guidance.
"By doing all of these things and coming forward for your vaccine when it is your turn, you can play your part in helping Lancashire on its road to recovery."
The test-and-trace phone app will also be updated so that when pubs and other hospitality venues reopen everyone in a group will have to register, not just the lead person, with those who test positive asked to share other places they have visited.
What happens if you test positive for Covid-19?
A rapid test usually shows a result within 30 minutes if you do not have any symptoms.
If you test positive for Covid-19 using a rapid test, you must begin to self-isolate immediately and book a confirmatory test via the NHS as soon as possible.
This will help ensure that people do not need to self-isolate unnecessarily if the rapid test has inaccurately produced a "false positive".
If you do have symptoms, you must begin to self-isolate immediately and book a test through the NHS.
Concerns over accuracy of rapid testing
Lateral flow devices have the advantage of giving a result in under 30 minutes, but are not as accurate as "gold standard" PCR tests, which must be sent to a laboratory.
Due to these concerns, some scientists have warned about “the possibility of false negatives with lateral flow tests”, The Guardian reports.
A recent review of 64 studies from Europe and the US into the accuracy of lateral flow tests found they are most effective at identifying those who have a high viral load - the most infectious people, but less successful at identifying those without symptoms, The BMJ reports.
But the UK government says analysis by NHS Test and Trace shows that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests there is fewer than one false positive result. It says the tests are "very effective" in finding people who don't have symptoms.
An independent review for the government found them "highly reliable, sensitive and accurate", according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
It said the four best-performing lateral flow tests detected coronavirus in "more than 70%" of cases, with the one being trialled in Liverpool - the Innova test - at 76.8%.
But that means as many as 30% of infected people could potentially be missed.
The chief medical adviser of NHS Test and Trace, Susan Hopkins said: "These tests are proving to be accurate and reliable. And, importantly they're able to detect COVID-19 in people without symptoms who could unknowingly be passing the virus onto others...
"We are confident that these new tests, which have been rigorously evaluated, will make a real difference in how we protect people from this disease and help break chains of transmission."