Home and workplace rapid testing

Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.

Rapid community testing

Everyone is being encouraged to take rapid Covid-19 tests at home to help stop the virus from spreading.

This includes people who have had their vaccinations.

The tests should be taken before socialising or spending time in enclosed busy spaces, for example a night out or a shopping trip.

It is not compulsory, but we're hoping that many people will recognise the benefits of getting involved in local testing efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in their communities.

Identifying and supporting infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce spread. 

The test kits, called Lateral Flow Tests (LFT), are easy to use and require people to simply swab their nose and throat and then wait 30 minutes for a result, which they register with NHS Test & Trace through an app or website.

Every person over the age of 18 can access them.

These rapid tests help identify asymptomatic cases so they can self-isolate and stop the spread.

There are a number of ways people can access rapid testing:

  • Collection from pharmacies. View the online map to see if there is one in your area.  From October 2021 you will need to show a 'collect code' in order to pick up kits from a pharmacy. This is super easy to do by visiting www.gov.uk/get-collect-code. If you're not online, you can call 119 (free from landlines and mobiles), to request a collect code.  Lines are open from 7am to 11pm. They will send you your collect code by email or text, and you take that code with you to your pharmacy to collect the test packs. You can collect test packs for your household or another household, but you must get a collect code for each household.
  • If you can’t make use of these options, you can order tests to be delivered to your home from the gov.uk website.  

Anyone who tests positive with an LFT must self-isolate immediately. Please note that from Tuesday, January 11, you will no longer need a confirmatory PCR test if you have no Covid symptoms and test positive with an LFT.

Be a STAR employer and sign up to provide regular Covid testing for staff

Please note this is temporarily unavailable

Covid-19 can have a devastating impact on your business if it is allowed to spread through the workforce.

Having staff off sick or self-isolating has already left many employers in Cornwall with no option other than to close temporarily while staffing levels can recover.

The issue is that around one in three people with Covid have no symptoms, so your staff members could be spreading the virus to colleagues and customers without realising.

The best way to avoid this situation is to ensure staff test regularly with free Lateral Flow Tests [LFTs] which give results in less than 30 minutes.

It not only ensures positive Covid cases are identified quickly so they can self-isolate, but it also sends a strong message that your business is Covid-aware and cares for its staff.

Cornwall Council has launched a new scheme called Covid STAR which aims to help as many businesses as possible ensure their staff have access to Lateral Flow Tests.

Those who engage with the scheme will also be encouraged to display a poster with the STAR message (Staff Testing Available Regularly) so customers can see you are a responsible employer.

To find out more, or to sign up, contact mary.dawe@cornwall.gov.uk 

School testing 

Staff working in primary and secondary schools, along with college staff, are asked to take two Covid-19 tests each week at home. 

On top of this, all secondary school and college students are being offered three Covid-19 tests.  

The government has made available two rapid tests that students can take each week at home. 

Testing remains voluntary but it is strongly encouraged. Students will not be tested unless they or their parent or carer has given informed consent. 

Those who test positive with the Lateral Flow Tests will be asked to book in for an additional PCR test and will need to self-isolate. 

There are currently no plans to carry out regular asymptomatic testing for primary school pupils, but tests are available for their parents (and all adults over 18 years of age) who are encouraged to use them twice a week. 

See the section on ‘What is rapid community testing and how can I access it?’ for information on how to get hold of the free tests. 

Lateral flow device

Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) are a type of technology that allow rapid testing for Covid‐19. The swab is inserted into the nose and throat and then put into a fluid and some drops of this are put on a lateral flow device which looks similar to a pregnancy test. 

This then gives a result in the form of coloured lines indicating a positive or negative result, usually within an hour (the most commonly used test will give a result in about 30 mins). 

The Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test is the testing kit used in this programme. These will pick up the new variants of Covid 19.

Lateral Flow and PCR differences

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing has been available now since summer last year to anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 either by attending one of the sites across Cornwall or by ordering a home test. 

The PCR test is the “gold standard” for testing but the results need to be processed in a laboratory and so it usually takes between 24 to 72 hours for someone in the community to get their test result back.  This does not matter for people who have symptoms as they should be at home self-isolating while they wait for their test result.  

Lateral Flow Devices use a similar swab to collect the sample, but swabs processed using LFDs provide results quickly. This is why they have a use for people who do not have symptoms but who are still infectious because, even though they miss some people who have the virus, they can identify people who did not know they were infected.  If these people isolate quickly they can avoid passing the virus on to other people. 

Rapid testing effectiveness

The most accurate test we have for COVID-19 is the “PCR” test that is available when people have symptoms. Test results can take a day or so to come back, but are usually very accurate and means that people can be reasonably confident in these results and continue to self-isolate if it comes back positive. 

Lateral flow devices can give a much quicker result (usually within an hour) but these tests are not as accurate as PCR tests.  A negative LFD test is not a guarantee that you do not have the virus: however, lateral flow tests tend to detect individuals in their most infectious period.  As 1 in 3 people may have the virus and never get symptoms, this can be a useful tool in the box to find extra cases of COVID-19 before the virus is passed on. 

In an evaluation of the mass community testing pilot in Liverpool, compared to PCR tests, these tests picked up 5 out of 10 of the cases that PCR tests detected and more than 7 out of 10 cases with higher viral loads (amounts of the virus in their nose and throat), who are likely to be the most infectious. This means that the tests missed 3 to 5 out of every ten people with the virus.  

Because of this, people need to both still continue to “act like they have the virus” even if their test result is negative and ensure that they wash their hands, socially distance and wear face coverings.  Also, this means regular testing is key, as if you are having contacts with other people regularly, you could have caught the virus and start to pass it on, even if a recent test showed you are negative.  

Doing the test and getting the result

It takes less than 15 minutes to administer the lateral flow device test.

This then gives a result in the form of coloured lines indicating a positive or negative result, usually within an hour (the most commonly used test will give a result in about 30 mins).

You then must report the results on the gov.uk website

Report a covid-19 rapid lateral flow result

Testing positive

If your test is positive you must self isolate straight away. This is a legal requirement.

Please note that from Tuesday, January 11, you will no longer need a confirmatory PCR test if you have no Covid symptoms and test positive with an LFT.

You'll need to self-isolate for 10 days from the date of the first test along with all those you live with. However, you can cut this to 5 full days if you record a negative Lateral Flow Test on days 5 and 6 of your isolation and do not have a temperature.

You may become eligible for support payments and your contacts will need to be traced. You will need to take a PCR test if you wish to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment.

Isolation for people you have been in contact with

If you get a positive Lateral Flow Test you will need to go home immediately and self-isolate. You should also record the positive result on the gov.uk website.

People you have been in close contact with should also take a test and isolate if it is positive. If they have symptoms they should self isolate.

Financial support 

More information on financial support through the nation test and trace payment support, and other Cornwall Council support can be found on our Coronavirus and benefits webpage.  

Negative test

It is important to remember that the LFDs can miss people who are positive (a false-negative result). 

Even with a negative test, you must still act like you have the virus and keep socially distanced from others, wash your hands, ventilate any indoor spaces and wear face coverings in busy enclosed spaces. 

Regular testing with LFDs does not stop you getting the virus, and is about helping to pick up as soon as possible if you have the virus so you don’t spread it to others.  

Even if the negative result is accurate and you do not have Covid-19 when you take the test, you might already have caught the virus and be incubating it – this means that you might start to be infectious soon after your test – so keep acting like you have it! 

Negative test but still have coronavirus symptoms

If you have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, you must book a PCR test via the gov.uk website or by calling 119 if you can't get online, as soon as possible. You must isolate immediately until you receive your results. 

Will regular LFD testing allow me to go back to a more normal way of life?

LFD testing is very good at identifying those with a high positivity of Covid-19 so that they can isolate as soon as possible to stop the spread of Covid.

If you receive a negative LFD test this does not guarantee that you do not have Covid-19.

You may have a very low positivity which has not been picked up by the LFD test.

You must continue to practice all infection control and national guidelines both in and outside of work.  

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