FILE PHOTO: A student of Newcastle Sixth Form College performs a lateral flow antigen test, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Newcastle upon Tyne, Britain, November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith/File Photo

Nine in ten pharmacies across England are now distributing free rapid lateral flow tests for people to collect and use at home, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) has said.

Rapid, regular testing is now available to everyone in England and the new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service provides an additional route to regular testing, making it as easy as possible for people without Covid-19 symptoms to access testing twice a week.

The Pharmacy Collect service is available to people aged over 18 without symptoms, who are able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of seven rapid tests to use twice a week at home.

“Alongside the rollout of the vaccine, testing will form a crucial part of everyday life as parts of society reopen. Around one in three people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which means they can spread the virus without knowing it,” the DH said.

Regular testing continues to play a critical role in stopping the spread of the virus and breaking the chains of transmission.

An online checker has also been launched to support the people to find their nearest pharmacy offering free rapid test kits.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Pharmacies make an invaluable contribution our health service – they have gone above and beyond in response to Covid-19 to serve their communities. Now, they will play a key role in our rapid testing programme, which is a vital tool in reopening society in the months ahead.

“I have been delighted at the level of interest and how fast the response has been from pharmacies to take part, with 9 in 10 registering to offer rapid test kits within 10 days.

“This new service will make it even easier for people to access rapid testing twice a week. The testing only takes 30 minutes and will help people stop the spread of the virus – protecting families and communities and saving lives.”

New analysis by NHS Test and Trace shows lateral flow (LFD) tests to have a specificity of at least 99.9 per cent. This means that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is fewer than one false positive result.

All positive results from LFD tests must be followed up with a confirmatory PCR test within 72 hours. Confirmatory PCR testing will also mean variants of concern are detected more quickly.

“If testing at home, individuals will need to register their results online or by calling 119, even if they get a negative result. They should self-isolate if they get a positive result and order a confirmatory PCR test online or by calling 119,” the DH said.

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