Twice weekly tests for coronavirus: What you need to know

Lateral flow testing involves taking a mouth and nasal swab to see whether coronavirus is present in the body

Parents and people who are going out to work are being encouraged to get tested for Covid-19 twice a week. - Credit: Suffolk County Council

With Norfolk's coronavirus rates dropping, testing, alongside the vaccination programme, is seen as a key way to keep them down.

Secondary school pupils and staff will be regularly tested from next week, when schools start welcoming all pupils back to the classroom.

But Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's director of public health, is urging all adults who are out and about for work - and those seeing friends or relatives when care homes allow visits again - to get tested twice a week.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Here's what you need to know about the tests and the various way in which you can get tested:

What tests are available?

Secondary school and college students will  be tested twice a week.

Initially, they will get tests at school or college before transitioning to twice weekly home testing.

Secondary students will have initial Covid tests in school before home testing. 

Secondary students will have initial Covid tests in school before home testing. - Credit: PA

The government has also said all households with primary and secondary school and college age children, and childcare and support bubbles, will be able to get twice weekly tests.

Norfolk County Council is providing mobile testing sites where people can get those tests.

Sites are up and running in various locations in Norwich, King's Lynn, Great Yarmouth and South Norfolk. More, including Broadland, are due to be added.

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A community collect service is also being considered, so that people can pick up home testing kits, but details have yet to be announced.

The council is also providing workplace testing kits for companies, while larger businesses can order those kits from the government.

Parts of Norfolk have some of the lowest rates of new coronavirus cases in the country Picture: Get

Covid-19 rates in Norfolk are falling. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Samara Heisz

What are the tests and how long does it take to get results?

The tests in schools, the testing hubs and in the workplace are lateral flow tests.

They detect the coronavirus antigen produced when a person is infectious with coronavirus, by applying a swab from the nose and throat to a test kit.

They produce a result within 30 minutes and the results do not have to be processed by a laboratory.

How accurate are they?

A University of East Anglia study into lateral flow testing used in Liverpool found it failed to detect 60pc of all positive cases and did not impact on infection rates.

Dr Smith said lateral flow tests were "very specific", so a positive result meant there was a "very high" chance somebody was positive.

She said the tests were less sensitive, so would not pick up everybody with Covid-19, but would pick up people with a high viral load - the most infectious.

She said negative tests did not mean people definitely did not have the virus, so people still needed to focus on social distancing, hand washing etc.

Do I have to get tested?

The tests are encouraged, but not mandatory.

Coronavirus testing centre. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Mobile testing sites have been set up in parts of Norfolk. - Credit: PA

What if I test positive?

People who test positive through a rapid test, must start self-isolating straight away and order a PCR test - a swab test analysed in a laboratory via www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

Why is it important to get tested so often?

Dr Smith says testing, and the vaccination programme, are key to keeping rates down.

The idea is that, by identifying asymptomatic cases, people who did not have any symptoms of the virus can self-isolate, breaking the transmission of the virus.

Do you think schools should close early for Christmas? Picture: PA Wire/PA Images/Jane Barlow

All pupils are due to return to school from Monday. - Credit: PA

As people return to school and workplaces, that increases the number of contacts people have, so regular tests can pick up infections and prevent the spread.

How do I book a test?

Community testing can be arranged by visiting www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/coronavirus/testing/symptom-free-testing where locations and dates of testing sites are available.

Workplace testing details are at www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/coronavirus/testing/workplace-surveillance-testing

People with symptoms should book a home test via www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. Results of those are usually back within 48 hours.

How much is all this costing and who is paying?

The UK Government has been purchasing kits. The cost per kit is not disclosed due to commercial confidentiality and sensitivities.

In December, the Department for Education allocated £78m to support secondary schools and colleges in getting tests, with funding differing according to the size of schools.

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