Everyone in England will be able to access free, regular, rapid coronavirus testing from 9 April.
Rapid testing has so far been available to 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. Now rapid testing will be offered to everyone.
One in three people with COVID-19 do not experience any symptoms and rapid testing detects cases quickly, meaning positive cases can isolate immediately. Since rapid testing was introduced, over 120,000 positive cases that would not have been found otherwise. By making rapid tests available to everyone, more cases will be detected, breaking chains of transmission.
The expanded regular testing offer for people without symptoms will be delivered through:
- a home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home
- workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home
- community testing, offered by all local authorities
- collection at a local PCR test site during specific test collection time windows
- testing on-site at schools and colleges
- a new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service is also launching which will provide an additional route to regular testing. People aged over 18 without symptoms will be able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of 7 rapid tests to use twice a week at home.
If testing at home, individuals will need to register their results online or by calling 119. They should self-isolate if positive and order a confirmatory PCR test. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should book a test online or by calling 119.
Recent analysis from NHS Test and Trace shows that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than 1 false positive result. Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) detect cases with high levels of virus and are very effective in finding people who don’t have symptoms but are very likely to transmit the disease.
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.