BRITS have been using lateral flow tests for months now to keep tabs on their Covid status.
But as Omicron continues to sweep the country, it's the best way to quickly make sure you are not infected.
Experts have suggested taking daily tests at the moment, within hours of going to any event or gathering, as the variant is spreading quickly.
You can buy them through private companies, but everyone has access to rapid Covid tests either through the Government website or local pharmacies.
They are easy to do from the comfort of your own home, giving a result between 15 and 30 minutes.
While they are not 100 per cent accurate, they catch the most infectious cases, even if you don't feel ill.
That means you can then stay at home, order a PCR to be sure, and not infect anyone else.
Although Brits are now asked to work from home where possible, businesses across the country have been asking employees to take these tests, to make sure they can keep operating.
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Using the lateral flow tests is also one way you can secure a Covid passport to events.
Many places now require proof of a negative lateral flow test 48 hours before an event, or two coronavirus vaccines.
And anyone who has been in contact with a positive Covid case must carry out daily lateral flow tests for seven days.
What is a Covid lateral flow test?
A Covid lateral flow test uses a swab from a patient's nose or throat to quickly determine if they are infected with coronavirus.
They are being used to check if people have the virus but are not showing symptoms.
By catching these people it means they can isolate at home and not spread the virus.
Around one in three people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus without knowing.
How do I order and use a Covid lateral flow test?
Head online to this website – where you can request a pack of tests to use at home.
The testing kit comes with instructions and is fairly simple to use.
It first involves taking a swab of the throat and nose and dipping it into a solution.
This is then placed onto a paper pad on the device – that looks like a pregnancy stick.
Inside the device is a strip of test paper that changes colour if coronavirus proteins are in the sample.
Usually, one line next to the "C" means negative, two lines next to "C" and "T" means positive, and no lines or one next to "T" means the test is void.
They often have key timelines in which the results are valid, so if you spot a change hours later it could be wrong.
The best way to know for sure is to repeat the test to stay as safe as possible.
How do I report my results?
Use this service to report your result to the NHS after using a rapid lateral flow test kit to check if you’re infectious with coronavirus (COVID-19).
Report the result every time you use a rapid lateral flow test kit and as soon as possible after you get the result.
You cannot report a result after more than 24 hours. You can only report one result at a time.
You need to have the barcode on the test strip or the ID number printed under it and a mobile phone number to get a test confirming the result.
It is the same for reporting your children's results.
You can also report results to NHS Test and Trace on the same day they take it, either by inputting their results online or by calling 119.
How accurate is a Covid lateral flow test?
Lateral flow tests are not as reliable as the PCR tests used by the NHS.
The Department of Health says the tests have been rigorously assessed by scientists. This means they are "accurate, reliable and successfully identify those with Covid-19 who don’t show symptoms".
But the tests were not designed to look for Covid in people without symptoms, but for people who did have symptoms.
It means the results are not 100 per cent correct.
The Government website states that "when a person has low levels of virus in their system, lateral flow tests are less sensitive than some of the other tests we use, such as PCR tests".
Omicron cases were feared to be being missed by lateral flow tests after medics in South Africa raised concerns.
But Dr Jenny Harries, the UK Health Security Agency's (UKHSA) chief executive, said that data coming in shows that lateral flows can detect Omicron and other variants.
She said: "This is very encouraging. As we all work to limit the high levels of transmission of this variant over the Christmas period, we are urging people to test regularly, particularly before attending social gatherings.
“As always, the booster vaccine remains the best protection against infection. Please come forward to receive your booster as soon as possible.”
Can you buy a Covid lateral flow test?
Yes, you can buy Covid lateral flow tests online.
However, the accuracy of an online test kit that has not been approved by a regulator cannot be guaranteed and a test result could be incorrect.
There are plenty of free kits available through the Government site or even possibly through your employer, so you shouldn't have to buy your own.
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