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Community testing and Lateral Flow Devices

What is rapid 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 who test positive have no symptoms so could be spreading the virus without knowing it.

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The programme is available to Cornwall-based businesses and workers who carry out essential duties but are unable to work from home.

Launched on 1 March , the twice-weekly testing is aimed at groups such as childcare staff, cleaners, construction workers, delivery drivers, factory workers, taxi drivers and retail assistants.

It also includes frontline Council staff and firefighters, as well as voluntary sector workers and people who are self-employed.

The programme is an extension of existing workplace testing schemes available to NHS and frontline workers.

Those who test positive will be asked to self-isolate immediately to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The Lateral Flow Test results are provided in around 30 minutes and are being made available to employers in two ways:

  • Option 1: Twice-weekly tests are carried out on the business premises twice a week, overseen by a nominated and trained member of staff.
  • Option 2: Employees of the business can access one of three drive-through testing sites in Camborne (Dolcoath Avenue), St Austell (Penwinnick Road) or Liskeard (Luxstowe House) twice a week, during working hours. Sites are open seven days a week from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

Book a COVID-19 lateral flow test

Businesses interested in setting up their own on-site testing should completed the Rapid Community Testing Business Survey

Staff working in primary and secondary schools, along with college staff, are now being asked to take two Covid-19 tests each week at home.

The tests use Lateral Flow Devices and are for people who are not displaying any symptoms of the virus. Anyone with symptoms must self-isolate immediately and book a different type of test, called a PCR test, via the gov.uk website or by calling 119.

Twice-weekly testing is also available to adults working in the wider school community, including bus drivers and after school club leaders.

On top of this, all secondary school and college students are being offered three Covid-19 tests on their return to the classroom. The government has made available two rapid tests that students can take each week at home.
Testing remains voluntary but it is strongly encouraged. Students will not be tested unless they or their parent or carer has given informed consent.
Those who test positive with the Lateral Flow Tests will be asked to book in for an additional PCR test and will need to self-isolate.

There are currently no plans to carry out regular asymptomatic testing for primary school pupils, but tests will be available for parents of primary age children.

All households with primary and secondary school and college age children, and childcare and support bubbles, are encouraged to start twice-weekly testing from 8 March.

Tests are available for adults in these households to collect from sites across Cornwall. As with student testing, this is encouraged but not mandatory.
If possible, working adults in households with school-age children are asked to make use of community or workplace testing.

As a second option, you can pick up a test kits from one of five sites across Cornwall.

Finally, you can also order tests online. However, stock is limited and people are encouraged to use the first two options if possible.

Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) are a type of technology that allow rapid testing for Covid‐19. The swab is inserted into the nose and throat and then put into a fluid and some drops of this are put on a lateral flow device which looks similar to a pregnancy test.  This then gives a result in the form of coloured lines indicating a positive or negative result, usually within an hour (the most commonly used test will give a result in about 30 mins). 

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing has been available now since summer last year to anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 either by attending one of the sites across Cornwall or by ordering a home test. 

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.  This does not matter for people who have symptoms as they should be at home self-isolating while they wait for their test result.  

Lateral Flow Devices use a similar swab to collect the sample, but swabs processed using LFDs provide results quickly.  This is why they have a use for people who do not have symptoms but who are still infectious because, 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. 

No test is perfect.  The most accurate test we have for COVID-19 is the “PCR” test that is available when people have symptoms. Test results can take a day or so to come back, but are usually very accurate and means that people can be reasonably confident in these results and continue to self-isolate if it comes back positive. 

Lateral flow devices can give a much quicker result (usually within an hour) but these tests are not as accurate as PCR tests.  A negative LFD test is not a guarantee that you do not have the virus: however, lateral flow tests tend to detect individuals in their most infectious period.  As 1 in 3 people may have the virus and never get symptoms, this can be a useful tool in the box to find extra cases of COVID-19 before the virus is passed on. 

In an evaluation of the mass community testing pilot in Liverpool, compared to PCR tests, these tests picked up 5 out of 10 of the cases that PCR tests detected and more than 7 out of 10 cases with higher viral loads (amounts of the virus in their nose and throat), who are likely to be the most infectious.   This means that the tests missed 3 to 5 out of every ten people with the virus.  

Because of this, people need to both still continue to “act like they have the virus” even if their test result is negative and ensure that they wash their hands, socially distance and wear face coverings.  Also, this means regular testing is key, as if you are having contacts with other people regularly, you could have caught the virus and start to pass it on, even if a recent test showed you are negative.  

People wanting to be tested need to commit to having two tests per week. 

The Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test is the testing kit used in this programme. 

It takes less than 15 minutes to administer the lateral flow device test. The test takes around 30 minutes to produce a result and you'll be notified of your result by email or text message.  

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

Yes. The rules for LFDs are that anybody you have been in close contact with for 48 hours before, including and after when you took your test needs to self-isolate for 10 days. If you get a positive LFD test you will need to go home immediately and self-isolate. You will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace in the same way as if you had symptoms.  

More information on financial support through the nation test and trace payment support, and other Cornwall Council support can be found on our Coronavirus and benefits webpage.  

No. It is important to remember that the LFDs can miss people who are positive (a false-negative result).  Even with a negative test, you must still act like you have the virus and keep socially distanced from others, wash your hands and wear face coverings.  Regular testing with LFDs does not stop you getting the virus, and is about helping to pick up as soon as possible if you have the virus so you don’t spread it to others.   Even if the negative result is accurate and you do not have COVID-19 when you take the test, you might already have caught the virus and be incubating it – this means that you might start to be infectious soon after your test – so keep acting like you have it! 

If you have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, you must book a PCR test via the gov.uk website or by calling 119 if you can't get online, as soon as possible. You and your household must isolate immediately until you receive your results. 

No. LFD testing is very good at identifying those with a high positivity of Covid-19 so that they can isolate as soon as possible to stop the spread of Covid. If you receive a negative LFD test this does not guarantee that you do not have Covid-19. You may have a very low positivity which has not been picked up by the LFD test. You must continue to practice all infection control and national guidelines both in and outside of work.  

Until recently, only NHS staff and primary school staff had been given the authorisation by the national regulator to do LFD tests in their own homes. However, households with school or college age children can now order a test online. The test is delivered to your home if you are unable to access community testing sites, as described above. 

This may change in future so more people can to do home testing using LFDs. However, until then, you must attend a testing centre where you will take your own swab and hand it to a testing centre staff member who will process the result for you and enter the results on to a system. You will then get a text message or email with your results.

Yes the LFDs will pick up the new strain.

No. We're hoping that many people will recognise the benefits of getting involved in local testing efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in their communities.

We aim to identify people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms but who are infectious and could spread the infection to others unknowingly. Identifying and supporting infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce spread. 

Yes, people who have been vaccinated should continue with all current guidance and advice with regards to COVID-19 restrictions; this includes testing.