Most people in the UK can no longer get free PCR or lateral flow tests, but a few groups are still entitled to free Covid tests.
You can get tests if:
- you have a health condition which means you’re eligible for COVID-19 treatments
- you’re going into hospital
- you work in the NHS or in adult social care
If you still want to get tested and you’re not eligible for a free NHS test, you will have to pay for a Covid test yourself.
You can buy rapid lateral flow tests from some pharmacies and retailers, in person or online.
For those who may still be taking lateral flow tests, what does the ‘C’ and ‘T’ mean on the test and how should results be read?
Here’s what you need to know.
What are lateral flow tests?
Lateral flow testing is a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms of Covid, but who may still be spreading the virus.
The tests are easy to use and give a quick result, but those who test positive must immediately self-isolate to avoid passing the virus on to others.
They work by detecting proteins (antigens) that are present when a person has Covid.
The test kit is a hand-held device with an absorbent pad at one end and a reading window at the other.
Inside the device is a strip of test paper that changes colour in the presence of antigens.
How do I take a lateral flow test?
Taking a lateral flow test usually involves taking a sample from the back of the throat near the tonsils and the nose, or just from the nose only, using a swab.
The swab is then dipped into an extraction solution which is dripped onto the device’s paper pad.
The tests give a quick result, as the sample does not need to be sent to a lab.
What does ‘C’ and ‘T’ mean on a Covid lateral flow test?
If you have taken a lateral flow test for Covid before you will have noticed it includes letters.
The ‘S’ is where the sample goes and in the separate section above this you will have noticed a ‘C’ and a ‘T’.
If there is one line next to the C then this means the test is negative
If there are no lines at all or just one line next to the T, then this means the test is void and you will need to retake with a fresh test kit.
However, if there are two lines, one being next to C and one next to T, even if they are faint, then this means the test is positive.