Testing for people without symptoms
Around one in three people who have Covid-19 do not experience any symptoms. Routine testing using lateral flow devices helps to identify cases like these and prevent individuals from spreading the virus without realising.
Lateral flow test results are available within half an hour without the need for laboratory processing.
A positive lateral flow test result should be thought of as a red light that can stop further spread of Covid-19. However, a negative lateral flow test result should not be thought of as a green light to rule out Covid-19 infection. This is because lateral flow tests are less sensitive than the PCR tests used for symptomatic testing and will not identify all positive cases. This means that even if you test negative, you still need to follow guidance on household mixing and the rules of hands, face, space - and if you have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, you must still complete your full self-isolation period.
In addition, you could pick up the virus or start to display symptoms within hours of taking a test. Therefore, these tests are only effective if taken regularly.
Getting into the habit of twice-weekly testing as part of our everyday lives will help us all to play our part and do what we can to keep each other safe. It is not mandatory, but strongly encouraged.
Twice-weekly asymptomatic testing is available to all adults in England through various routes.
Many employers are offering testing in the workplace. This includes testing sites, where you can take a supervised test, and workplace collect, where you can pick up a box of tests to use at home. If your employer offers workplace testing, this is still the best route for you to access rapid tests.
You can collect free testing kits from a local collection point, including many pharmacies. You don't need to make an appointment.
Each pack contains seven tests and anyone 18 or over can collect. You can check online if the location is open before you go.
Use NHS England's site finder to find a collection point near you.
Some local and regional PCR (symptomatic) testing sites also offer home testing kit collections at certain times of the day. Find a testing site and check hours for community collect.
Secondary school and college students are given tests by their educational setting to use at home twice a week, throughout term time and the holidays.
Children in nursery and primary school should not take part in routine testing.
If you can't access tests through the other routes, you can order a box of tests online or by calling 119. They will be delivered to your home.
If you have symptoms you should self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test (not a lateral flow test). Book your test through the NHS website or by calling 119.