Millions of people have been taking advantage of free rapid Covid-19 tests following the government’s announcement that everyone, including those with no symptoms, can now get regularly tested.
Around one in three people who have coronavirus do not have any symptoms and the public is being urged to make use of rapid Covid-19 tests regardless of whether they feel unwell.
More than 50 million rapid Covid-19 tests have been carried out since the autumn and hundreds of thousands of cases have been detected among people with no symptoms.
These would have otherwise been missed, posing a risk that the virus is spread to others, who may fall seriously ill or even die from the disease.
Rapid tests are easy to get. You can collect a test at a local testing site, participating pharmacies or order by calling 119 or visiting nhs.uk/Get-Tested – and results are available within 30 minutes.
“Testing ourselves for coronavirus using rapid tests is vital to us keeping ourselves and others safe from coronavirus and keeping infection rates in our communities low,” explained Amir Khan, a GP.
“When done correctly, the tests are at least 99.9 per cent specific which means that the risk of false positives is extremely low – less than one in a thousand, this means it is a very good test.”
Adults are being asked to take these free tests twice a week – the frequency of testing is important since it is the best way to catch people who may have Covid-19 at the point it becomes highly infectious.
As lockdown restrictions ease, getting into the regular habit of testing twice a week will play an important role in keeping life moving.
They are another tool that can be used in the fight against the virus, in conjunction with the vaccine and the “Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air” guidance.
Another benefit is that when you record your results, whether positive, negative, or void, experts get a better understanding of the spread of the virus across the country. Report your result at gov.uk/report-Covid19-result or by calling 119.
Scientists can use the information, which is kept anonymous, to spot patterns and outbreaks more quickly and accurately; helping reduce the risk of future lockdowns.
Supermarket worker Kim Tobin, 54, from Southend, Essex, had a positive rapid Covid-19 test result in January.
She lives with her daughter Eva, 23, and husband Phil, 55, and at the time of the test her son Jack, 21, was also living at home.
Ms Tobin said she was not expecting the result to come back positive after she was offered a test by her employer. She then went into self-isolation.
“I was so shocked, I just couldn't believe it, because, apart from that very, very slight sore throat – which I'd been for a run the day before so it wasn't that bad – I had absolutely nothing wrong with me,” she said.
“If you're not feeling any of those symptoms, you would probably assume that you haven't got it. [Taking a test] is important because we know how quickly it spreads just by one person having it and giving it to somebody else.”
It is important to note that while a positive rapid test result is a red light, a negative rapid test result is not a green light.
Since the tests find the virus in people who are at their most infectious, anyone receiving a negative test result should recognise that no test is 100 per cent accurate and that to further reduce the risk of onwards transmission, they should follow the “Hands, Face, Space, and Fresh Air” rules.
Shawn McGarrett, a 29-year-old plumber from south London, discovered he had Covid from regular rapid testing.
“I never felt unwell at all, had none of the symptoms that they say you get with Covid but then one day one of my tests came back positive,” he said.
“I was surprised but I had always been told that this could happen. Anyway, I immediately put myself in quarantine and out of harm’s way for 10 days.
“There are simple rules which we are being asked to follow and if we do then the sooner we can all get back to life as we once knew it.”
Claire Devy, 47, a health and wellbeing coordinator who lives in Saddleworth with her partner Mark and 17-year-old twins Joe and Oliver, was also surprised to receive a positive rapid Covid-19 result after taking a test on Boxing Day.
“I booked in for my PCR test which confirmed the result,” she said. “Then a couple of days later I lost my sense of smell and taste but that was about it.
“With the restrictions that had come in the week before, I fortunately hadn’t seen anyone over Christmas and I was so glad – I’d have felt mortified if I’d given it to someone.”
If you’re ordering tests online then the process is quick and simple to follow. Just visit nhs.uk/Get-Tested or call 119.
Anyone who tests positive should self-isolate immediately and visit nhs.uk/Get-Tested or call 119 to order a confirmatory PCR test.