Lateral flow testing is a quick way to test whether people have Covid-19. It is normally used to test people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus.
We know that a significant proportion who test positive for coronavirus have no symptoms and can therefore spread it unknowingly. So, testing people without symptoms is an important additional tool to identify people with the virus, and therefore stopping the virus spreading through communities.
How do I access Lateral Flow Tests for my workplace?
The Government has set up an online portal for businesses to find out more about offering rapid workplace testing. Businesses will be provided with all the information they need to plan and deliver their testing programme, along with promotional materials.
If you have 10 or more employees, from early April you’ll be able to order tests for your employees to collect from their workplace and use at home twice a week. You can do this if you cannot provide testing in the workplace. You must register by 11:59pm on 12 April 2021. You can register to order coronavirus tests on the government website.
If you do not qualify for workplace testing, you and your employees can access free rapid testing through the council by visiting one of the council’s testing sites. Further details are on the council’s rapid testing webpage.
How frequently should I test my staff?
To ensure you capture most people who are infectious, you will need to test everybody every 3 to 4 days or twice a week.
What is the difference between PCR and LFT types of testing for Covid-19?
PCR Testing (Standard test)
PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing. A swab is used to collect a sample from the patient's tonsils and inside their nose. This is then tested for small fragments of the virus called RNA.
This is then sent to a laboratory where it is processed using specialist equipment. Because it needs to be sent away, the PCR testing takes longer, around one to two days.
Lateral Flow Testing (Rapid Test)
As with PCR testing, Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) involves a swab being inserted into the nose or throat. However, instead of sending the sample away the sample can be processed on site. The swab is inserted into a tube of liquid for a short time which extracts any COVID-19 virus.
A few drops of liquid are then dropped onto a small strip. Within 30 minutes, the strip of paper will show up with two lines if it is positive, one line on the top if it is negative or one line on the bottom if the test is invalid.
You can watch this Department of Health video explaining the LFT testing procedure.
Does a positive case need to self-isolate?
Yes. Anyone who tests positive via a LFT must self-isolate along with their household immediately and their contacts will be traced.
To report a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your workplace please follow the guidance for employers on the management of a suspected or confirmed case(s) of COVID-19 in the workplace.
How to notify the local Public Health team of a case (s) of COVID-19 in your workforce
For queries and confirmed case reporting please contact our Public Health team responsible for COVID-19 on 01234 718141 (office hours Monday - Friday) or firstname.lastname@example.org (7 days a week). Emergencies out of hours should be escalated to the Service Director who may contact the Director of Public Health.
Should people who have tested positive with a LFT go for a confirmatory PCR test?
If your lateral flow test was arranged privately i.e. Not through the government offer, you should have a confirmatory PCR swab test within 24 hours.
If your lateral flow test was administered at a local government testing site (for small workplaces) or supported by the government offer (for medium and large workplaces), you do not need to go for a PCR swab test as your LFT result will feed into the national test and trace system.
If linked to the national Test and Trace system, a positive LFT result will trigger: the legal duty to self-isolate; eligibility for support payments; and contact tracing for those who do not report their own LFD results.
The employee and their household should isolate for 10 days starting immediately. You as the employer should keep a record and comply with workplace and NHS test and trace contact tracing.
For information on how to manage Covid-19 cases in the workplace visit the MK Council website.
What happens if an employee tests negative?
A negative test means the virus was not found in the swab. It is possible for Lateral Flow Tests to miss individuals who are early on in their COVID-19 infection, therefore although the employee does not need to isolate they must continue to take all precautions including social distancing, wearing a mask and regularly washing your hands.
Should staff who have tested positive be re-tested before they return to work?
No. Staff who have previously tested positive, via an LFT or a PCR test, and have completed their 10-day self-isolation should NOT be re-tested using LFT or PCR for a period of 90 days from their last positive test result. This is because these people will no longer be infectious and are therefore safe to return to work (once well) but may still have traces of the virus which would be detected by a test.
Should I test staff who have received a Covid-19 vaccination?
Yes. The vaccine offers them protection against Covid-19 but may not prevent the person from acquiring and passing on the virus to others. More information available on the NHS website.
If an employee tests positive. Should I identify close contacts for self-isolation?
Yes. A close contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from 48 hours before the person was symptomatic, up to 10 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others).
Identifying close contacts of a positive case will help determine who may need to self-isolate for 10 days to help stop the spread of the virus.