COVID-19 What is symptom-free rapid lateral flow testing?

Around one in three people with Covid-19 have no symptoms, but can still pass it on to others - we all need to play our part to help protect each other.

Symptom-free testing uses rapid Covid-19 tests (Lateral Flow Devices - LFDs) to identify people who have coronavirus without symptoms. An LFD detects the presence or absence of coronavirus from a swab sample. The sample is mixed with a buffer solution, which releases and breaks up virus fragments. Some of the solution is then dropped on to the LFD. The sample runs along the surface of the device's absorbent strip, showing at the end a visual positive or negative result dependent on the presence of the virus.

Various symptom-free rapid lateral flow testing programmes are available in Surrey:

All adults and secondary aged children in Surrey are encouraged to take a test two times a week. People may particularly wish to use regular symptom-free rapid lateral flow testing if they are not fully vaccinated and to help manage periods of risk such as returning to the workplace, after close contact in a higher risk environment or when spending prolonged time with a more vulnerable individual. You will not need to isolate while waiting for the results of the symptom-free test. Unless you develop symptoms, you will only need to isolate if you are notified that you have tested positive. If you test positive, by law you must follow the government guidance. Further details can be found in the government's Stay at home guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

The following routes are available to access twice-weekly testing, depending on individual situations:

  • Workplace testing: Most regular workplace testing will finish at the end of July and the online ordering system closed on 19 July. All businesses are encouraged to signpost their employees to the GOV.UK and pharmacy collection service to continue to access free weekly testing. The government are also currently considering the potential use of assisted daily contact testing in some workplaces.
  • Community testing: Under-served groups and individuals who are at higher risk of transmission will continue to be supported through targeted community testing.
  • NHS Test & Trace sites: These are across the country and operate as symptomatic testing sites in the morning but are currently providing an afternoon collect option, where you can pick up a box of tests to use at home.
  • Pharmacy collect: Thousands of pharmacies across England have signed up to offer pharmacy collect. You can go to a participating pharmacy and pick up a free box of tests to use at home. NHS England's site finder allows you to search pharmacies near you that offer pharmacy collect.
  • Education: Secondary school and college students are being given tests to use at home twice a week, throughout term time and the holidays if they are still attending education settings. Testing is still widely available over the summer for children not attending educational settings, and kits can be collected either from your local pharmacy or ordered online. All secondary school and further education students will receive two on-site lateral flow device tests, 3 to 5 days apart, on their return in the autumn term. Twice weekly testing of students and staff will continue at least until the end of September. All education staff should undertake twice weekly home tests whenever they are on site until the end of September, when this will also be reviewed.
  • LFD Direct: For people who can't access tests through the other routes, you can order a box of tests online or through 119, which will be delivered to your home.

For additional information on COVID-19 testing visit the NHS Testing for coronavirus webpage.