Workers without symptoms FAQs

What is community testing?

Community testing is a new programme for testing people without COVID-19 symptoms to help reduce transmission of coronavirus.

Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 have no symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it.

Community testing will help us identify more positive cases quickly and support people to self-isolate, therefore breaking chains of transmission and protecting communities.

Who can get a test?

We are targeting workers who cannot work from home and who cannot access testing through existing workplace testing schemes or other programmes. This includes:

  • Local authority frontline workers (not covered by other programmes).
  • Early years settings (not covered by a national programme such as childminders)
  • Retail including supermarkets
  • Construction and maintenance workers
  • Some transport workers / hubs (including ferry, taxis, bus drivers)
  • Volunteers, including those supporting local authorities and emergency services in supporting the welfare of local residents.

We are prioritising those at high risk of transmitting the virus, particularly those who are in contact with vulnerable residents and people working in places where they are most likely to mix with those from many other households. This is where testing will have the biggest impact – both in terms of reducing transmission of the virus and to support the delivery of key services.

Do I have to pay to get a test?

No. The test is free.

How does the test work?

The test is taken with a lateral flow device. Lateral flow devices are COVID-19 testing kits given to people without any symptoms of coronavirus. It involves taking a swab in the throat and nostril, then placing it in a test tube.

Lateral flow devices can give results in 30 minutes.

How is a lateral flow test different from the test for people who have symptoms?

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) is the type of testing that is available for people who have symptoms of COVID-19. 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. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you must follow the stay at home guidance (self-isolate) and book a test.

Lateral flow tests use a similar swab to collect the sample, but swabs processed using lateral flow tests provide results quickly. They are used for people who do not have symptoms but who are still infectious: 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.

How accurate are lateral flow tests?

Lateral flow tests are less accurate than the usual (PCR) COVID-19 tests that are sent to the laboratory for processing. Results from lateral flow devices have reduced sensitivity, which means that they do not always correctly generate a positive result for people with COVID-19. Lateral flow is useful for finding out if a person is infectious now.

When levels of the virus are at their highest and people are mostly likely to pass on the disease, lateral flow tests can detect the vast majority of cases. Lateral flow testing is less likely to return a positive result when low levels of the virus are present.

It is important to note that a negative result with a lateral flow device does not mean you do not have COVID-19, and you must continue to adhere to the COVID-19 rules should you test negative, including regular hand washing, wearing a face covering, and social distancing (hands, face, and space).

Should I take a lateral flow test if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

No. Lateral flow devices are only for people without symptoms of COVID-19. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you must follow the stay at home guidance (self-isolate) and book a coronavirus test.

How often should I be tested?

You should commit to having two tests per week, with a gap of 3 to 5 days between tests in a seven-day period.

How long does it take to do the test?

It takes less than 15 minutes to administer the lateral flow device test. Your appointment should take no more than 30 minutes.

How will I find out my result?

You will be notified of your result by NHS Test and Trace by email or text message after you have left the testing site.

Do I have to have a smart phone to take the test?

No. But you do need to book online or by calling the site. You can contact your district or borough council to book a test on your behalf if you cannot do this online yourself. You can also give the mobile number of a friend or family member so that your result can be sent to you.

Staff at the test centre will help you register your details so you can get the results of your test.

What should I do if I test positive?

If your test is positive you must self-isolate straight away along with everyone you live with. This is a legal requirement. You will need to self-isolate from the date of the first test plus the next 10 days. You may become eligible for support payments and your contacts will need to be traced.

It is very important to fill in the registration forms as fully as possible at the testing site, so that NHS Test and Trace can get in touch with you to trace your movements and close contacts.

If NHS Test and Trace is unable to reach you, Hampshire’s Local Tracing Service will try to make contact. The local phone number to look out for is 01962 826982.

How can I access support payments if I need to self-isolate?

You can apply for support payments on gov.uk or contact your district or borough council to find out if you are eligible.

If I get a negative test, can I hug my friends/relatives or ignore social distancing?

No. You must continue to follow government guidance. It is important to remember that the lateral flow tests can miss people who are positive. Even with a negative test, you need to keep socially distanced from others, wash your hands regularly and wear face coverings.

What should I do if NHS Test & Trace have asked me to self-isolate because I am a contact of someone with COVID-19, but I have tested negative on a lateral flow device?

You must follow advice from NHS Test and Trace – or from the Hampshire Tracing Service – to stay at home when asked to do so, even with a negative test result from a lateral flow device. This is because lateral flow devices are less accurate than usual (PCR) COVID-19 tests for people with symptoms, and do not guarantee that you do not have COVID-19. As a contact you are at higher risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 so you must follow the follow the stay at home guidance (self-isolate) and book a test if you develop any coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature, a new, persistent cough, or a loss or change to your sense of taste and smell).

Should I take a lateral flow device test if I have had the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. If you have been vaccinated, you should still take lateral flow device tests when indicated. This is because we do not yet know whether vaccination prevents the transmission of COVID-19.

Why should employers encourage their staff to take part?

By offering free community testing to all workers who cannot work at home, we will be able to quickly identify anyone who may be unknowingly passing the virus on to others. This will help to safeguard your workforce and provide business continuity. It will also protect your customers and the wider community.

More information about lateral flow testing for people without symptoms.