How to take a lateral flow test correctly – vital steps that could save you from isolation

Covid passports: Dr Khan on 'accuracy' of lateral flow test

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On October 24, the new testing rules for fully vaccinated passengers returning to the UK from “non-red list” countries came into force. The rule change sees pricier day two travel PCR tests replaced by more affordable lateral flow tests. However, based on the Government’s rules, even passengers who do not have coronavirus could face 10 days of mandatory self-isolation if they fail to take their lateral flow test correctly.

This is because any inconclusive test results will result in a person having to quarantine at home unless they choose to take an additional test.

The website states that in the event “your coronavirus test result is unclear you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day after your test date.”

It adds: “You may choose to take another test, and if it comes back with a negative result, you no longer need to self-isolate. You may be contacted to check that you are self-isolating.”

According to Denis Kinane, immunologist and founding scientist at Cignpost ExpressTest, this is just one of the reasons why ensuring passengers must ensure they take their lateral flow tests correctly.

However, avoiding unnecessary isolation is not the only reason why ensuring your test is taken correctly is so crucial.

Nick Markham, co-founder at Cignpost Diagnostics says capturing every test correctly is “the most important” thing in order to nip positive cases in the bud.

He said: “Cignpost’s latest data shows four in every 1,000 fully-vaccinated people are testing positive after they arrive in the UK, despite everyone currently needing to record a negative Lateral Flow test before arriving here.

“With no pre-departure tests now required, the number of positive cases among arrivals is set to rise.

“That’s why it is essential that these tests are undertaken correctly, so individuals who are positive are tracked and asked to isolate. Only this will help to mitigate the spread and prevent new variants coming into the country.”

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Testing kits typically come with detailed instructions as to how to take and register lateral flows correctly.

The NHS also provides information on how to do so.

Mr Kinane told “It is advised that travellers read the instructions provided with the lateral flow test kit and it is recommended to watch video tutorials provided by the test provider or NHS on the correct way to take a lateral flow test.”

There are a number of specific requirements set out by the Government dictating whether a passenger is eligible to take a lateral flow test on day two of their arrival in the UK, as well as which tests are accepted and what steps must be taken.

Passengers who fail to correctly take their lateral flow test and follow the instructions set out by the Government could also face hefty fines.

Mr Kinane said: “The Government requires eligible fully vaccinated passengers arriving in England, from countries not on the UK’s red list, to take day two lateral flow tests at any point from arrival to their second day in the country.

“Travellers are not allowed to use NHS Test and Trace lateral flow tests for international travel and must purchase a Lateral Flow test from a recognised testing provider.”

Only lateral flow tests from select firms can be used for the purpose of a day two travel test.

The Government sets out an “approved list” of providers on its website, of which Cignpost Express is a part.

Mr Kinane explained: “Travellers should ensure that their test provider is Government listed on its register of authorised providers. We would also advise they check the accreditation status of the provider with UKAS, and that they display the kite mark for the LTIO (Laboratory Testing Industry Organisation).”

The Cignpost Express scientist also pointed out the importance of filling out a passenger locator form before travelling to the UK.

Along with providing details of a passengers journey, this form also includes important details regarding the testing process upon arrival in the UK.

Mr Kinane said: “Prior to travel, you must fill in a passenger locator form with the test details that you have booked – these are provided by the testing company.”

Once travellers have arrived in the UK, they must send a photograph of their test result as evidence, as well and include the booking reference to their test provider.

Mr Kinane warned that “failure to do so could result in a fine of £1,000.”

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How to take a lateral flow correctly

The NHS provides a guide on the key steps to taking a lateral flow test correctly.

These include steps to be taken before, during and after testing.

Before taking the swab:

  • Read the instructions in the test kit
  • Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitiser
  • Llay out all the items in the test kit on a clean surface
  • If your test does not come with a pre-filled tube, fill the tube with the liquid provided and close the lid
  • Place the tube in the tube holder
  • Blow your nose
  • Wash your hands again

Taking the swab

If your test requires a throat swab:

  • Open your mouth wide and rub the swab over your tonsils (or where they would have been). Avoid the end of the swab touching your teeth, tongue and gums
  • Put the same swab inside your nose (about 2.5 cm up or until you feel some resistance)

If your test requires a nose swab only:

  • Put the swab inside your nose (about 2.5 cm up)

Completing the test

  • Put the end of the swab into the tube so it’s in the liquid
  • Squeeze the liquid from the tube onto the test strip
  • Check the waiting time in the instructions that came with your test kit
  • Wait for the time shown in your test kit instructions
  • Read your result
  • Do not leave it longer than the waiting time specified in the test kit instructions as this may affect the result.

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