About Lateral Flow Tests (LFT)
Around one in three people with coronavirus do not have symptoms but can still infect others. Lateral flow testing is a fast and simple way for people who do not have symptoms to check that they are not spreading the virus without knowing.
Research shows that LFTs are a reliable test for COVID-19. They give a quick result and do not need to be sent to a lab.
Even if you are fully vaccinated, you could still catch the virus or pass it on without knowing. Doing a LFT helps to protect yourself and others.
Free rapid lateral flow testing is offered to everyone.
When to do a Lateral Flow Test (LFT)
You should take a lateral flow test before a period of high risk. Do LFTs on days when you’re more likely to catch or spread COVID-19. For example, do a test before you:
- mix with people in crowded indoor places
- visit someone who is at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
You should also do daily rapid tests (1 a day for 7 days) if you’ve been in contact with someone with COVID-19 and are either:
- double vaccinated, greater than 14 days ago
- under 18 years and 6 months old
It is important to note that healthcare settings, social care, schools and prisons will have their own testing guidance, and you should make sure you are aware of this guidance if you visit or work in these places.
Latest information and advice
From Monday 17 January, people with COVID-19 in England can end their self-isolation after 5 full days, as long as they test negative on day 5 and day 6 and no longer have a fever. You can read more here
From the 11 January 2022, as a temporary measure, whilst Covid-19 rates remain high, people who do not have symptoms but receive a positive lateral flow test result will need to self-isolate immediately and won’t be required to take a confirmatory PCR test.
Anyone who develops 1 of the 3 main symptoms should stay at home, self-isolate and take a PCR test. You must self-isolate if you then get a positive test result, even if you had a recent negative lateral flow test. These rules have not changed.
Anyone who receives a positive LFD test result should report their result on GOV.UK and self-isolate immediately but will not need to take a follow-up PCR test at this moment in time.
If you report a positive LFD test result you will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace so that your contacts can be traced and contacted.
There are a few exceptions to this revised approach.
- People who are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment (TTSP) will still be asked to take a confirmatory PCR if they receive a positive LFD result, to enable them to access financial support.
- People participating in research or surveillance programmes may still be asked to take a follow-up PCR test, according to the research or surveillance protocol.
- You have received an email or letter from the NHS because of a health condition that means you may be suitable for new COVID-19 treatments. If this applies to you and you develop any COVID-19 symptoms, you should use the PCR test kit that was sent to you in the post for this purpose. If you have not received a PCR test kit you can arrange to have a PCR test.
- You have a positive day 2 LFD test result after you arrive in England.
In line with the reduced self-isolation approach announced on 22 December, anyone who tests positive will be able to leave self-isolation 7 days after the date of their initial positive test if they receive 2 negative LFD results, 24 hours apart, on days 6 and 7.
It remains really important that anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms self-isolates immediately. You can order a PCR test on GOV.UK or by phoning 119.
You can read more about the changes here – Confirmatory PCR tests to be temporarily suspended for positive lateral flow test results
From the 22 December 2021, individuals that have tested positive for COVID-19 may be able to end their self-isolation period earlier. You can take an LFD test from the sixth day of your isolation period, and another LFD test on the following day. The second LFD test should be taken at least 24 hours later. If both these test results are negative, and you do not have a high temperature, you may end your self-isolation after the second negative test result. You should not take an LFD test before the sixth day of your isolation period, and you should only end your self-isolation following 2 consecutive negative LFD tests which should be taken at least 24 hours apart.
If you take an LFD test from the sixth day of your isolation period, and the test result is positive, wait 24 hours before you take the next test. This means that if, for example, your symptoms started at any time on the 15th of the month (or if you did not have symptoms but your first positive COVID-19 test was taken on the 15th), you may take daily LFD tests from the 21st. If your LFD test results are negative on the 21st and 22nd, and you do not have a high temperature, you may end your isolation period after the negative test result on the 22nd.
If both your LFD test results are negative, it is likely that you were not infectious at the time the tests were taken. To further reduce the chance of passing COVID-19 on to others, if you end your self-isolation period before 10 full days you are strongly advised:
- to limit close contact with other people outside your household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
- to work from home if you are able to
- in addition to venues where it is a legal requirement, to wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where you are in close contact with other people
- to limit contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
- to follow the guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread
You should follow this advice until 10 full days from when your self-isolation period started.
From the 14 December 2021, close contacts of a case who are not legally required to self-isolate as a close contact are asked to test themselves daily by lateral flow test for 7 days, or until 10 days since their last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 if this is earlier.
If they don’t know the date of contact, they should take a lateral flow (LFD) test every day for 7 days after they are notified of the contact.
This includes close contacts that are aged 5 or above, adults that are double vaccinated greater than 14 days ago or medically except from vaccination or participating in an approved vaccine trial. Close contacts should take this daily test before they leave the house for the first time that day.
You can find more information here: Guidance for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection who do not live with the person
How to get a lateral flow test
There are now several ways to get a test.
- Get a test kit sent to your home – If you are unable to get to a test centre to collect a test kit you can order a home testing kit to be sent to your home.
- Collect a test from a pharmacy – You will be able to use this service if you are over the age of 18 without symptoms. Participating pharmacies will provide a box of 7 rapid tests to use twice a week at home. Changes have been made to the pharmacy collect service to improve traceability of lateral flow test kits. The main changes you will notice are:
- You are now only allowed to collect two packs of LFT kits, rather than four.
- You will need to register for a 16 digit collect code on GOV.UK – Get a collect code to pick up coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow tests or by phoning 119 before making a collection from a pharmacy. If you do not wish to register for this collect code, a supply can still be made as an anonymous collection, but we encourage everyone to use collect codes wherever possible.
- Assisted asymptomatic testing in a local pharmacy – Some pharmacies provide assisted testing using Lateral Flow (rapid) tests, for people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus. If you have never used a rapid test before, it is a great way to be shown how to do the test correctly. You can then collect kits and do the testing at home. Or this service might help you if you cannot perform the test on yourself for any reason, allowing you to take part in regular rapid testing. Do not turn up for a lateral flow test if you are below the age of 16, or if you are displaying any of the following symptoms:
- a high temperature
- a new continuous cough
- a loss of or change to your sense of smell or taste
If you have any of these symptoms, please use the GOV.UK website to book a PCR test.
Pharmacies that offer assisted testing can be found below (please check the opening hours with your local pharmacy before visiting):
|Allcures Ltd||Minster Pharmacy||15 Silver Street, Ilminster||TA19 0DH|
|Allcures Ltd||Preston Grove Pharmacy||Preston Grove, Yeovil||BA20 2BQ|
|Allcures Ltd||Quantock Pharmacy||11 Swain Street, Watchet||TA23 0AB|
|Axbridge Pharmacy||Axbridge Pharmacy||The Square, Axbridge, Somerset||BS26 2AR|
|Day Lewis PLC||Day Lewis Yeovil||Hendford Lodge Medical Centre, 74 Hendford, Yeovil||BA20 1UY|
|Eightlands Ltd||Cranleigh Gardens Pharmacy||Cranleigh Gardens, Bridgwater||TA6 5JS|
|Jhoots Pharmacy||Jhoots Blackbrook||Blackbrook Medical Centre, Lisieux Way, Taunton||TA1 2LB|
|Jhoots Pharmacy||Jhoots Victoria Park Dr Bridgwater||Victoria Park Dr, Bridgwater||TA6 7AS|
|Jhoots Pharmacy||Jhoots Somerset Bridge Bridgwater||Somerset Bridge Medical Centre Stockmoor Park Estate, Taunton Road, Bridgwater, Somerset||TA6 6LD|
|Touts Pharmacy||Tours Cheddar||Roynon Way, Cheddar, Somerset,||BS27 3RB|
|Touts Pharmacy||Touts Street||82 High Street, Street, Somerset,||BA16 0EN|
If you are going into hospital
You may need to get tested if you’re due to have surgery or a procedure. The hospital will arrange this for you. Contact your hospital department if you have any questions. Testing for coronavirus before hospital – Sets out how and when to use a PCR home test kit to test for COVID-19 before a hospital procedure.
Find out what you need to do to book tests for travel below.
Businesses and employees
The workplace testing scheme has now come to an end, and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have written to all the private and public sector organisations who were signed up to the scheme to inform them of this.
Workplaces are now asked to direct their employees to pharmacy collect and ordering online to continue accessing rapid lateral flow tests. As we continue to return to normal, twice weekly testing remains key and we recommend people continue to test.
However, workplaces may choose that the best way for them to test their employees is through private testing providers. Employers should refer to Private providers of coronavirus (COVID-19) testing – GOV.UK and related guidance if they wish to continue workforce testing using this route.
Tests for NHS and social care workers
NHS Test and Trace is making regular coronavirus testing available to people without symptoms who work in the NHS and social care. Primary care staff can find out more here
Tests for care home residents and staff
There’s a separate testing service for care home residents or staff members. You can still get tested even if you do not have symptoms.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing in adult care homes – How to access test kits and step-by-step guides on how to use PCR and rapid lateral flow test kits for regular and outbreak testing of residents and staff.
Tests for adult social care settings
Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for adult social care settings – Outlines the COVID-19 testing available for testing staff, residents and visitors for all adult social care settings.
Nursery and school staff
Tests for nursery staff
For any queries or issues with the supply, ordering or delivery of test kits, contact NHS Test and Trace on 119 for further support and advice. The helpline is open 7am to 11pm Monday to Sunday.
For all other enquiries about the rapid testing programme in education, contact the DfE Coronavirus Helpline on 0800 046 8687. The helpline is open 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
You can find further information on how to order additional test at home kits and details on the national testing policy can be found on the primary schools and nurseries document sharing platform.
Asymptomatic testing: early years staff in different settings – How staff in early years settings can access regular rapid coronavirus (COVID-19) testing.
Primary, middle and secondary school age pupils
It is important to note that this expansion in testing is not for children. Secondary pupils will access testing through their school, and primary age children should not be tested at this time.
You can find FAQ’s on rapid testing information to support the return to school here. Please note that this information is related to the schools testing programme and not other asymptomatic programmes.
- Students are encouraged to get tested for Covid-19 before they travel back to university, where community testing facilities are available to them.
- All students eligible to return to university should get two tests – one immediately on return to university and then again three days later. You should then be tested twice weekly after that. Your university should share guidance with you, setting out how and where to access asymptomatic testing.
- If you are a student who has arrived from overseas and have completed a period of quarantine –either in a hotel or in your own accommodation – you are not expected to perform a lateral flow test on your initial return to campus. Students should follow instructions on regular asymptomatic testing as set out by their university or higher education provider.
What the test involves and the results
There are now 2 new brands of lateral flow test (LFT) available, Acon Flowflex (blue and white pack) and Orient Gene (green and white pack). Both brands of LFT still come in packs of 7 tests, and still need to be performed twice a week.
The Acon Flowflex tests and Orient Gene tests differ in the respect that it only takes 15 minutes for a final result. Not only that, but these new kits both require nasal swabbing (of both nostrils) only. Swabbing of both tonsils is no longer required.
|Test kit||Innova||Orient Gene||Acon Flowflex|
|Package colour||Blue and white||Green and white||Blue with brown|
|Resting time||None||1 minute||None|
|Wait time||30 minutes||15 to 20 minutes||15 to 30 minutes|
There are some slight differences in the test method of each brand, so please make sure you read each instruction leaflet before performing the test. And as always, please make sure that kits are kept at room temperature between 15 to 30 degrees Celsius before use.
How to do a coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow test – Find out how to do a rapid lateral flow test for COVID-19 and report the results. Rapid tests are only for people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow home test kit instructions for nose-only test: ACON Flowflex – Step-by-step guide on how to do an ACON Flowflex rapid nose-only test for COVID-19 and report the results.
COVID-19 rapid lateral flow test kit instructions: throat and nose test – How to do a rapid throat and nose test for COVID-19 and report the results. This test is only for people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
You must report your lateral flow test result on GOV.UK as soon as possible, or phone 119 to report your lateral flow test result if you are unable to use the online service. The 119 service can provide support in 200 languages.
If you test negative
If your lateral flow test result is negative and you have no symptoms you do not need to self-isolate – unless you are a close contact of someone with confirmed COVID-19 and you are over the age of 18 and have not been fully vaccinated greater than 14 days ago.
If you test positive
If your lateral flow test result is positive:
- You should self-isolate immediately, alongside any household contacts who are older than 18 and 6 months and have not been double vaccinated greater than 14 days ago.
- You must report your result immediately on GOV.UK – Report a COVID-19 rapid lateral flow test result and wait for NHS test and trace to advise you further.
- Only get a follow up PCR test if you need to apply for the NHS test and trace support payment, you are asked to get a PCR test as part of a research study, you have been informed you would be eligible to receive anti viral treatment if you get COVID-19, and should therefore take the PCR swab sent to you previously. Or if you test positive on a day 2 post return from travel LFD test. This is a temporary measure which came into place on the 11th January in response to high levels of COVID-19 in the community currently.
What to do if you have misreported a positive LFT result on the website
If you have incorrectly reported a lateral flow result as being positive, when it was negative, you can take any of the following actions:
- Complete the online NHS Test and Trace form
- Email email@example.com
- Or phone 119
If you cannot get through to 119 or fail to get a response, you should book a PCR test (within 48 hours of the lateral flow test being taken).
You and your household contacts are required to self-isolate until you receive the result of the PCR test. If the PCR result comes back negative, you can then stop self-isolating.
You and the close contacts need to self-isolate until the test result is resolved.
Self-isolating means staying at home and not going to work, for food shopping or for any other reason. Your positive test result indicates that you are at risk of spreading the virus.
You can find more information on the NHS website: When to self-isolate and what to do – Coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you develop symptoms of coronavirus while you are self-isolating after your positive lateral flow test, you must extend your isolation for 10 days from the start of symptoms.
You will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace following the positive test, please help control the spread of the virus by participating in the contact tracing.
If you have a positive lateral flow result you may qualify for self-isolation payments. You can find information about the Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme here
If you need Coronavirus help or support, contact Somerset’s Coronavirus helpline on 0300 790 6275
More information and downloads
- How to get a Lateral Flow Tests poster
- Understanding lateral flow testing for people without symptoms – An explanation of the technology behind asymptomatic testing and the role these tests play in the national COVID-19 testing programme.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow home test kit instructions for throat and nose test
- How to do a coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow test – Find out how to do a rapid lateral flow test for COVID-19 and report the results. Rapid tests are only for people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
- COVID-19 self-test help – Find out how to test yourself for coronavirus (COVID-19) if you are asked to, and learn what help is available.
- NHS Testing for Coronavirus – Get a test to check if you have coronavirus, find out what testing involves and understand your test result.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): getting tested – Guidance on coronavirus testing, including who is eligible for a test and how to get tested.
- Get a free PCR test to check if you have Coronavirus
- NHS test and trace: what to do if you are contacted – An overview of NHS Test and Trace, including what happens if you test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive.
- Age UK – information on test and trace
- Guidance for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection who do not live with the person
- How tests and testing kits for coronavirus (COVID-19) work – The different types of tests and testing kits for COVID-19, and the specifications for manufacturers.
- Coronavirus antibody testing – Information about the government’s coronavirus antibody testing programme. Antibody tests are to check whether a person has had the virus.
- NHS COVID-19 app – Download this app to help control the spread of coronavirus and protect yourself and others.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): disposing of waste – How to dispose of waste, including face coverings, personal protective equipment (PPE) and rapid lateral flow tests.
- COVID Keep Safe Checklist – How have you kept safe today?
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing before you travel to England – You need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel to England from abroad.
- Vaccination A4 Flyer for support and outreach workers and those working with those experiencing homelessness
COVID-19 information in other languages
Diversity Voice also has lots of translated COVID-19 resources available
How to do a coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow test at home – guides in different formats and languages