Symptom-free tests (Targeted Community Testing) FAQs

What is Targeted Community Testing (symptom-free)?

We are offering symptom-free testing using lateral flow devices (LFD) to people aged 16 or over who have no coronavirus symptoms and have to leave home for work and do not have access to symptom-free testing through other routes.

Why is Surrey County Council offering symptom-free tests?

Up to one in three people with COVID-19 have no symptoms but may still be infectious and spread the infection to others unknowingly. Identifying and supporting these infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce spread and transmission of the virus. This will help protect our most vulnerable residents and help us get back to a more normal life.

How long will symptom-free tests be available for?

The Targeted Community Testing (symptom-free) programme will be provided until 31st March 2021, but may be available beyond this date if support from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is extended.

Who is eligible for a symptom-free test?

To take a symptom-free test at our sites in Surrey, you must:

  • Be aged 16 or older
  • Need to leave home for work, and not have access to symptom-free tests through your place of work.
  • Not have any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, new persistent cough or loss of sense of taste or smell). If you have any of these symptoms you book a COVID-19 test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119.
  • Be a resident of Surrey, or work in the county.
  • Not have been instructed to isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

We are particularly encouraging critical workers leaving home for work to be tested. The full list can be found on the GOV website.

We are aware that staff from nurseries and pre-schools and childminders have been recommended to access Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) testing through community testing. Therefore, childminders working from their own homes that do not need to leave their home to work are eligible for a symptom-free test via the Targeted Community Testing programme.

Is the test mandatory or voluntary?

Testing is voluntary, although we hope that many people recognise the benefits of getting involved in local testing efforts, to reduce the spread of the virus in our communities.

If I am regularly tested through an existing programme such as via my workplace, should I start using this testing programme instead?

No. This programme is intended to give people who cannot work from home and who are unable to access symptom-free testing via other routes, the opportunity to be regularly tested. If you can access symptom-free testing via an existing programme at your workplace, you should continue to use that testing instead.

How can I book a test?

You can book a test via the online booking system, If you are unable to book a test online, you can call the helpdesk number on 020 8865 1952 (Monday - Friday 8.30am to 6pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm, local charges will apply). We would encourage you to book a test via our online booking system if you are able to.

What if I need to change or cancel my booking?

If you chose to create an account on the booking system when you booked your appointment, you can log into your account to change or cancel your appointment. If you did not create an account on the booking system, please ring the helpdesk number on 020 8865 1952 (Monday - Friday 8.30am to 6pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm, local charges will apply), to change or cancel. If you can no longer attend your appointment, we recommend you change your appointment rather than cancel as it's important that you get tested.

What if I am eligible for testing, but there are no slots available for me to book a test?

Only days with available booking slots are shown on the booking system. If there are no booking slots available, please try again the following day.

Where can I get tested?

Testing is available at our Targeted Community Testing sites and some community pharmacies. More sites will become available across the county while testing is running. Locations of sites can be found on the booking system.

When can I get tested?

Targeted Community Testing sites will be open Monday – Friday, 8am – 8pm. There may be some availability at community pharmacies at weekends, depending on the individual opening hours of pharmacies offering testing. Please refer to the booking system to see available slots on offer at individual sites.

How frequently should I get tested?

We recommend getting tested two times a week where possible, in line with recommendations from nationally run symptom-free testing streams for other workforces that need to leave the home to work. We recommend you do this regularly while testing is available to help stop the spread of the virus.

What type of test is being used?

Targeted Community Testing uses Lateral Flow Devices (LFD). 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.

How is this different from the test being used for those with symptoms taking a test?

The testing process is similar because for both tests you will need to take a swab from your throat and nose. The main difference is that the test for those with symptoms uses a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which is more sensitive than the symptom-free LFD test, which is why it is used for people who have symptoms of the virus. However, the results from an LFD test are available much quicker, as it is processed on site as opposed to being taken to a laboratory to be processed.

Are the tests accurate?

If someone tests positive on a symptom-free test, it is highly likely that they have COVID-19 and unlikely to be a false positive. This is especially the case at the moment as the prevalence of the virus in the community is high. If someone tests negative on a symptom-free test however, there is a chance they might still have COVID-19. This is because the evidence so far has shown that there is a risk of false negatives in cases where the strength of the virus is low. Symptom-free tests are more able to pick up positive cases which have a higher strength of the virus, who are more infectious.

What should I bring with me to the testing site?

You must bring a valid form of ID, proof of your appointment confirmation and a face covering. You can register on your own mobile device, so this may speed up your registration. Tablets will be provided for registration if you do not have your own mobile device.

What happens during the testing process?

You need to book a test before arriving at the test site. You should avoid eating or drinking for at least 30 minutes before taking the test to reduce the risk of spoiling the test. You will be greeted by a member of staff upon arrival, who will check your eligibility, ID and booking information. You'll then register for the test on your own smartphone or on a tablet provided in the registration area. You will then be asked to take a swab kit. You will be given instructions on how to do the sample and take the swab sample, which is a large cotton bud wiped at the back of your throat and up your nose. You will hand the swab back to a member of staff who processes the test on site.

Staff will be on hand to answer questions at any point during this process. You will then be asked to leave the test centre. You should continue with your day, following the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus. Remember to socially distance, wear a face mask when required and maintain hand hygiene as usual during this time.

How will I receive my result?

You will receive your result from NHS Test and Trace, via text message and email. This is generally between 30 minutes and two hours in most cases, but it can sometimes take up to a day.

Please note that very occasionally, the system doesn't send a test result in this timeframe, but you will be able to get your result the next day (at least 24 hours after test) by calling NHS 119.

What happens if I get a positive result?

If you test positive using a symptom-free test, you must self-isolate immediately, along with everyone in your household, for 10 days after the day of the test. Contact tracing will be initiated through NHS Test & Trace and any contacts will be advised to self-isolate as well.

Travel advice when you receive your notification of a positive test:

  • Travel home immediately, wearing a face covering
  • Wherever possible you should travel home in your own vehicle or by walking or cycling
  • If it is not possible to do so, you should arrange for a member of your household to pick you up
  • You should follow national guidance provided by the Department for Transport when travelling home.
  • Asymptomatic contacts of positives cases should go home as they would normally do. If the contact becomes symptomatic, they should follow same travel advice as positive cases (above).

What support is available to individuals that test positive?

If you're asked to self-isolate after a positive symptom-free test and you're on a low income, unable to work from home and will lose income as a result, you may be entitled to a payment of £500 from your local district or borough council. More information about the scheme can be found on the Surrey County Council website.

What happens if I get a negative result?

You should continue to follow the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus, as well as measures implemented as part of the national lockdown. To protect yourself and others, you must remember: Hands. Face. Space.

Hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home - use hand sanitiser or gel if soap and water are not available.

Face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will meet people you do not normally meet.

Space – stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.

What happens if I get an invalid result?

An invalid result is rare, but if it happens to you, you should retest with another symptom-free test. If you have a second invalid result, you should get a COVID-19 test like you would if you had symptoms. You can tick the box saying that your local authority has directed you to get a COVID-19 test.

If I get a negative symptom-free test via this Targeted Community Testing programme, does that mean I do not need to self-isolate if I am identified as a contact of a COVID positive case?

If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should not book a symptom-free test. You must stay at home and complete 10 days self-isolation after the day of the test. Taking a symptom-free test will not allow you to end your isolation early. It's a legal requirement to self-isolate if you are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you do not self-isolate.

Can I still get tested after I have tested positive and self-isolated?

You do not need a negative test to end your self-isolation period. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 by an LFD test or a PCR test within the last 90 days, you should not participate in this testing. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 during this 90-day period, you should get a PCR test. You can restart routine testing again using LFD tests at our sites once 90 days have passed since your positive test (if you were symptom free) or the onset of your illness (if you were symptomatic).

Should I still get tested if I have been vaccinated against COVID-19?

You should still get tested if you're eligible even if you have been vaccinated, as there is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a LFD test?

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 will not cause you to test positive on a LFD test. The test detects current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 rather than the immune response caused by getting vaccinated.

Who can I contact if I have a question about the Targeted Community Testing (symptom-free) programme?

You can email targetedcommunity.testing@surreycc.gov.uk with any questions and one of the team will come back to you.