With Covid cases falling and life starting to open up again, it’s tempting to think we’ve finally defeated the virus.
But even though we have great vaccines, they aren’t the complete answer to the problem – not everyone has had the shot yet, and none of them currently offer 100 percent protection.
However, we have one more brilliant weapon in our arsenal: quick testing. Not only does this give a result in just 30 minutes, it can also notice about one in three cases where people don’t show any symptoms.
It is vital that these are detected to prevent people from unknowingly spreading the virus.
And the good news is that these fast-paced Covid-19 tests are now available for free to anyone over 18 in the UK. They can be picked up from your neighborhood testing center, a participating local pharmacy, or ordered online at nhs.uk/Get-Tested or by calling 119.
Experts say we should all make it a habit to test ourselves at home twice a week. That way, we can catch Covid to the point where it becomes highly contagious and stop the spread.
Rapid tests not only give a result in just 30 minutes, it can also detect about one in three cases where people don’t show symptoms.
General practitioner Dr. Amir Khan explains, “Rapid tests are effective in detecting contagious people and help us find Covid-19 cases that we would otherwise not be aware of. This will help us in our efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
Testing ourselves using rapid Covid-19 testing is vital to protect ourselves and others and to keep infection rates low.
‘By testing regularly, even if you have no symptoms, we can keep the infection level low and our country safe. The great thing is that they give you a result within 30 minutes. ‘
Covid-19 rapid tests – which are different from the PCR tests performed in test centers (see opposite page) – were first used in the UK in October last year.
Since then, 58 million tests have been conducted and hundreds of thousands of cases that would never have been noticed have been detected, preventing the spread of the disease.
And they are incredibly accurate. “When done correctly, the tests are at least 99.9 percent specific, which means the risk of false positives is extremely low – less than one in a thousand,” says Dr. Khan. ‘It is a very good test. “Testing ourselves for coronavirus using rapid Covid-19 testing is vital to protecting ourselves and others and keeping infection rates low in our communities.”
Even if you use the tests regularly, you should continue to take other preventative measures, such as socializing, covering the face, and washing your hands regularly. The advice of ‘Hands, face, space and fresh air’ still applies.
It’s also important to always record your test result – positive, negative, or invalid – online at gov.uk/report-covid19-result or by calling 119 right away.
This will help experts better understand the spread of the virus across the country and allow scientists to use the anonymous information to track patterns and outbreaks faster and more accurately, reducing the risk of future lockdowns. It is vital to record both negative and positive results to get an accurate picture of Covid-19 in the UK.
So start testing yourself and your family now to keep out the country, protect others, and show your friends, family and colleagues that you care.
■ If you don’t have any symptoms, you can get your free Covid-19 quick tests on nhs.uk/Get-Tested or by calling 119.
‘IT’S SO FAST – I GET THE RESULT BEFORE I HAD A CUP OF TEA MORNING MORNING’
When she left her temporary job at a nursing home last fall for a new job in PR, Emma Stannard no longer had to take the biweekly quick Covid tests she’d insisted on.
But the 22-year-old found that she missed the reassurance the tests gave her that she was not unknowingly spreading the virus.
So when she found out that the tests were available to the public, she got some right away.
“They are easy to use and very accurate,” says Emma. ‘I wake up, test myself, get a shower and the result appears during breakfast. I scan the barcode of the test and write my result on the government website before I finish my first cup of tea of the day! ‘
Emma was relieved to be testing herself again as she got into the habit last summer while working as a caregiver.
“The results would come back the next day, and I thought it was a really good idea because you could be asymptomatic, and it’s always better to know.”
Especially when her fourth test came back positive. ‘I think I cried because it was a shock – I had no symptoms and followed the rules. I felt so guilty – I had worked with very vulnerable people and did not know how much I had infected. ‘
Fortunately, it was caught before it spread. “It was a burden off my shoulders,” she says.
‘I HAD COVID-19 WITHOUT KNOWING’
On the day she went for a walk with a friend on December 27 last year, Claire Devy routinely tested herself on Covid-19.
The 47-year-old had received a package earlier this month from the NHS trust she works for, and had used them routinely twice a week.
“I thought it would be okay,” says the mother of two from Saddleworth. “I put on my coat and boots, checked the test and thought,” What’s that? ” It was positive. I had my glasses double checked and called my partner who confirmed.
‘I was really shocked. I don’t know where I got it. I thought I had been careful ‘.
She canceled her walk and booked a PCR test, confident it would be negative. But it wasn’t.
“I was worried about my family,” she admits. “We isolated ourselves, but a few days later one of my sons showed symptoms – luckily one test turned out negative.”
Two days after her first test, Claire lost her sense of smell and taste, although those were her only Covid symptoms.
“Luckily I hadn’t seen anyone over Christmas, and I was so happy – I would have felt guilty if I had given it to someone,” she says. “I have a relative with cancer who I helped with chores near her. She had just had major surgery and I was shocked at the thought that I could have gone to hers without knowing I was contagious. ‘
Now that she has seen the importance of testing, Claire is calling on everyone else to test themselves regularly.
It’s important because hopefully we can slow the spread of Covid-19. If I had started working with the virus, I would have felt so guilty. ‘
Home tests are simple and accurate
‘I feel assured that I can continue to work’
With a father at home who suffers from chronic lung disease, Shawn McGarrett has not taken any chances with the coronavirus.
“I did tests twice a week and just went to the local community center, where you get the result back in half an hour,” says the 29-year-old plumber.
There are simple rules that we are asked to follow, and if we do, the sooner we can all come back to life as we once knew it.
“It was never a dull thing to do, and I felt reassured that I could keep working – taking care of all my clients, some of whom are quite elderly and weak.”
But then came a positive, ‘I’ve never felt unwell and had none of the symptoms they say you get with Covid,’ says Shawn from South London. ‘I was suprised.
‘I immediately quarantined myself for ten days. It cost me quite a lot, but I know it was something that had to be done. There are simple rules to follow, and if we do, the sooner we can all come back to life as we once knew it. ‘
Information relevant only to readers in England.
Covid-19 Rapid Test vs PCR Test – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Rapid Covid-19 test These are for people who are not showing signs of Covid-19 and should be performed at home by everyone twice a week. They can be picked up at your local testing center or participating pharmacy, or ordered online at nhs.uk/Get-Tested or by calling 119. They are free. The results should be recorded online at gov.uk/report-covid19-result and, if positive, you should immediately book a PCR test and isolate yourself along with everyone you live with.
PCR test (polymerase chain reaction) These are for people who think they have Covid because they have symptoms such as a high temperature, a new persistent cough, or a loss or change in their sense of smell or taste. They are performed at local testing centers or at home; book online at nhs.uk/Get-Tested or call 119. Results take a few days and if positive, you and your family should isolate themselves for at least ten days after your symptoms start.
◼ This article is part of a paid partnership with the UK government