Covid Control Plan: Testing
Covid Control Plan: Testing
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires an effective, proactive programme of testing, contact tracing and self-isolation to break chains of infection.
The initial testing focus has been on symptomatic cases, using PCR laboratory tests that take 24-48 hours to process. More recently, the importance of asymptomatic testing has increased, using Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) that provide results within 30 minutes.
Testing needs to take place to:
- Find people who have the virus, trace people they have been in close contact with and ensure both self-isolate to prevent onward spread.
- Undertake surveillance, including identification of vaccine-evasive disease and new strands.
- To investigate and manage outbreaks.
- To enable safe re-opening of the economy.
Testing if you have the virus now is done via:
- Symptomatic testing: ensuring that anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus. This is done using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
- Asymptomatic testing: targeted testing to identify any individuals who may have the virus but are not displaying any symptoms. This is largely done using Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests – also known as ‘rapid’ testing.
It is important that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms self-isolates immediately and gets tested as soon as possible. Tests can be obtained by:
- Booking an appointment at a regional or local testing site which are open seven days a week. In Newcastle, these are based at:
- the drive-through regional testing site at Newcastle Great Park
- the walk-in local testing sites at:
- Etherley Road Car Park
- Newcastle General Hospital
- Castle Leazes Car Park, Newcastle University
- CCE Car Park, Northumbria University
- Ordering a home test kit if you are unable to access a testing site.
- Under some circumstances, tests may be available through temporary deployment of a mobile testing unit.
To book or order a test, visit https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
For information on self-isolation see the Government guidance guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.
Regular rapid asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 allows us to:
- Find more of the people who have COVID-19 but do not have any symptoms – people who are “asymptomatic”.
- Support them to isolate so they do not unknowingly pass COVID-19 to those with whom they may be in contact.
- Trace the close contacts of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and support close contacts to isolate.
Government has rolled out a broad, asymptomatic testing programme across a range of settings – this programme is expanding rapidly, but at the time of writing includes:
- Workplace testing: twice weekly testing for all those unable to work from home.
- Community testing: local authority-led testing available at asymptomatic test sites.
- NHS frontline staff: twice weekly home testing.
- Care homes: three tests a week for staff, monthly PCR testing for residents.
- High-risk extra care and supported living: three tests a week for staff, monthly PCR test for residents.
- Domiciliary carers: weekly testing.
- Schools and colleges: twice-weekly testing of teachers and secondary and college pupils.
- Universities: twice-weekly testing for all students and staff currently on-site.
- Other settings (including prisons and hospices): mix of PCR and rapid testing.
- Home testing: twice-weekly testing at home
Participants in regular rapid testing are usually asked to take two tests per week, 3-5 days apart. By using the rapid LFD test, results are ready within 30 minutes without needing to be sent to a laboratory.
The Community Testing Programme was initially launched in December 2020 to enable local authorities with high prevalence of COVID-19 to work in partnership with government to accelerate a reduction in prevalence by identifying asymptomatic cases through local testing and supporting them to isolate.
Following the implementation of the national lockdown in January 2021, the programme was opened up to all local authorities, with emphasis on making testing available to those people permitted to leave home for work and unable to access asymptomatic testing through other programmes.
In January 2021, we set up an asymptomatic community testing site at the Civic Centre and at the start of March, we expanded our offer and accessibility by opening up a second site at Westgate College – increasing our weekly testing capacity to over 4,500.
Access to the testing sites is via appointment only. Details of the sites, how to book an appointment and instructions before attending can be found at: https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/services/public-health-wellbeing-and-leisure/public-health-services/coronavirus-covid-19-8
As of 9 April 2021, everyone can test themselves at home. Home test kits can be accessed by ordering online or by collecting in person at a collection point. This service is prioritised for anyone who cannot access routine testing through other programmes, e.g. workplace or community testing. More details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests
Collection points are currently located at the local and regional testing sites – these sites previously provided PCR tests all day, seven days a week. To facilitate collection of home kits, this has been reduced with PCR testing taking place up until 12.00 each day and with collection available from 13.30 to 19.00.
Local authorities have been invited to ‘opt in’ to establish further collection points. We will shortly be offering home test kit collection from our two community testing sites. This will very quickly be increased with other collection sites established across the city to ensure they are as accessible as possible.
Did you know?
The LFD test is a RED LIGHT test that can STOP the spread of COVID-19 in people who do not have symptoms by identifying them, isolating them and breaking chains of transmission.
An LFD test is NOT a GREEN LIGHT test to rule out COVID-19. This is because LFD tests are less sensitive than PCR testing and they will not identify all positive cases of COVID-19.
They are a useful tool to identify COVID-19 cases in people who do not show symptoms. They are not a substitute for the measures we all need to take to stop the spread of the virus.
If your LFD test for COVID-19 is negative it is very important that you continue to follow government guidance to stop the spread of coronavirus.