• Free, regular Covid-19 rapid testing for adults over 18 will come into effect on Friday 9th April 2021.
  • If you don’t have symptoms, rapid testing is a fast and easy way to find out if you have coronavirus, helping to reduce the amount of people spreading the virus unknowingly.
  • Tests are easy to get, and easy to do, and results come back in around 30 minutes, but how will YOU make sure this becomes an easy part of your weekly routine; psychologist, Laverne Antrobus, and GP, Dr Zoe Williams, share their tips.

From 9th April

All adults over the age of 18 in England will be encouraged to carry out twice-weekly Covid-19 rapid testing as of Friday 9th April. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described these tests as “helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.”

Rapid testing has so far been available to some, helping protect those most at risk and people who need to leave home for work, including frontline NHS workers, care home staff and residents, and schoolchildren and their families. As restrictions start to lift as part of the roadmap from Monday 12th April, and non-essential retail and hospitality begins to open, all adults in England will be eligible to request free rapid Covid-19 tests from online, participating pharmacies and local testing centres (as well as workplaces, where available).

But whilst everyone will be encouraged to test, how can we better integrate this action into our weekly routines, so that we don’t run out of tests, forget to test or run into issues getting those around us to do the same?

Psychologist, Laverne Antrobus, comments: “During this pandemic, we have all had to change our behaviour and develop new ways of living our lives. Over time, actions like remembering to take a mask and hand sanitiser when leaving the house have become as routine as grabbing your front door keys! This move to testing twice weekly will be no different – we can all develop new habits when we can see the benefit in doing so. These tests alongside Covid-19 guidance, Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air are another way to feel confident that we are taking the necessary steps to continue to keep ourselves and each other safe.”

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Twice weekly tests to manage spread of the virus

TV doctor and practising NHS GP, Dr Zoe Williams comments: “Twice weekly testing will be crucial in helping us manage the spread of the virus as society starts to reopen. The tests are quick and easy to do, and results come back in 30 minutes. Key workers such as myself & my colleagues have been carrying these out for the last few months, and it’s amazing how quickly they have become second nature to us. However, it’s important to remember that there is not one silver bullet in the fight against Covid-19, and even with a negative test result, we must still follow social distancing guidelines – hands, face, space, fresh air, and go for our vaccines when called.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Massive efforts have been made by the British public to stop the spread of the virus.

As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.

That’s why we’re now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England – helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.”

Here are some handy tips from Laverne Antrobus and Dr Zoe to help get twice-weekly testing into your routine:

  1. Put a reminder on your phone in your diary or on the fridge on those days when it makes most sense for you to test, and at a time you know will work. Life can be really busy and it’s easy for things to fall off your list.
  2. If you’re in a family environment, communication is key. Ensure that those in the household that need to test feel comfortable testing. Talk about any issues that might be
    stopping others who are eligible to test. It might just be that they are worried about doing the test wrong, the test feeling uncomfortable or the implications of a positive test result. Having an open dialogue can help everyone work through any concerns and feel supported moving forwards. You can watch Dr Zoe’s demo or Dr Amir Khan’s tutorial with his niece to see exactly how to do the test yourself.
  3. Encourage your household to all take tests – testing is for everyone and its important that all members of the household take tests so that test and trace can be more effective.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up! If you forget to test, just do a test as soon as you remember. If you run out of tests, just re-order from nhs.uk/coronavirus and you can pick up an immediate supply from a local testing centre.
  5. And remember this is all part of how we take the next step – twice-weekly testing alongside Covid-19 guidance of Hands Face Space and Fresh Air is our best way to stop the spread of this virus.

Why is rapid testing important?

Up to 1 in 3 people with Covid-19 do not display any symptoms. This means you could be spreading the virus to people without knowing it. Regular rapid Covid-19 testing if you don’t have symptoms is a fast and easy way to find out if you have coronavirus, keeping those around you safer.

So far, over 31 million rapid tests have been carried out in total, including 18 million in schools and colleges, identifying over 120,000 people with Covid-19 who were not experiencing
symptoms. These are cases that would otherwise never have been identified and these individuals have subsequently been told to self-isolate, therefore preventing the onward transmission of the disease.

How do these tests work?

Rapid Covid-19 tests are lateral flow devices. Lateral flow is an established technology, adapted to detect proteins (antigens) that are present when a person has Covid-19. The best-known example of
a lateral flow test is the home pregnancy test kit. These tests are effective in identifying those who have Covid-19 but don’t have any symptoms. These give a fast result in around 30 minutes without the need for laboratory testing and allowing those who test positive to self-isolate immediately.

How do you take the test?

Using a rapid Covid-19 test involves taking a sample from the back of the throat near the tonsils and then from the nose, using a simple swab. The swab is placed in a liquid (or extraction solution) which is then dripped onto a test strip. In around 30 minutes you will see lines appear on the strip showing whether the test is positive or negative. If for some reason the test didn’t work it will clearly show as void and a new test will need to be taken.

Ensure you read through the instructions that you get in your kit before starting, and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before touching the equipment.

Where can I pick up rapid flow tests from?

  • The NHS website: nhs.uk/coronavirus
  • A local testing centre: Find yours here
  • Participating pharmacies
  • Secondary schools and colleges will continue to provide under 18’s direct with kits

Do I need to twice weekly test if I have been vaccinated?

The vaccine is offering tremendous hope as the easing of national restrictions begin – over 30m people have received their first dose of the vaccine and roll out continues at pace. Vaccines will provide some protection for us in the longer term, and early clinical evidence shows that the vaccine is reducing severe infection and severe disease, but it’s still too soon to know how the vaccine will impact rates of infection, transmission, or variants of concern. And it will be several months before the vaccine has been offered to all adults. Therefore, it’s important that everyone takes part in the new regular rapid testing, even if they have had the vaccination.

Not all those offered the vaccine will take it up and there are some groups, such as children, for whom the vaccine is not yet authorised. Even when vaccinated, there is still a chance people can contract the virus and pass it on. If this virus exists somewhere, it exists everywhere and for that reason testing will remain vitally important in the months ahead.

What do I do if my rapid test is positive?

If your test result is positive, you will need to self-isolate and follow the guidance from NHS Test and Trace. This means:

  • You will need to self-isolate immediately for 10 days from the date of the test, and get a confirmatory PCR test
  • People you live with must self-isolate for 10 days from when you start self-isolating

What do I do with the results?

It’s really important to report your results, even if you have a negative or void result, you can do this easily online at gov.uk/report-covid19-result or by phone at 119.

Will the NHS Covid-19 app be updated?

To coincide with the offer of free rapid testing for everyone, there will be updates to the NHS Covid- 19 app in England from 8 April:

Everyone in a group must check-in:

In line with new regulations, when a group enters a hospitality venue, every individual must check either by scanning the official NHS QR code poster with the NHS COVID-19 app, or by providing their contact details. Previously, only the lead member of the group needed to provide contact details to check-in.

Venue history sharing

If an app user tests positive, they will be asked to share their venue history in a privacy-protecting way via the app. This will allow venue alerts to be generated more quickly, and improve the ability to identify where outbreaks are occurring and take steps to prevent the virus spreading.

Additional venue alerts

If a person has been at a venue on the same day as several other people who have since tested positive for Covid-19, they may receive an alert, advising them to book a test immediately, whether they are showing symptoms or not. This is to support finding asymptomatic cases who may have caught the virus but are not displaying symptoms.

New QR code posters

There will be new posters displaying QR codes for hospitality venues in England. Work has taken place with the industry to make the posters clearer and easier to use. All venues in England in scope of the regulations are legally required to display an official NHS QR code poster.

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