Rapid Tests

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Anyone in Northern Ireland can access free Rapid COVID-19 Tests to keep our friends, family and colleagues safe.

Rapid COVID Tests – also known as Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests – provide a result within 30 minutes at home.

On this page, find information about workforce testing, access to tests for members of the public, and testing for events and large gatherings.

How does regular Rapid Testing keep us safe?

  • Rapid Testing twice a week helps to protect our doctors and nurses so they can continue to protect us. 
  • When we know where COVID-19 cases are increasing, we can take action to stop the virus in its tracks.
  • If you’ve already had the vaccine, you can continue to do the right thing by taking regular Rapid Tests to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Reporting your result, even if it's negative or void, helps scientists track the spread of COVID-19 and spot new outbreaks faster. Click here to report a Rapid Test result.  

Do you have:

  • a high temperature;
  • a new, continuous cough; or
  • noticed a loss or change in your sense of smell?

Rapid Tests should only be used by people with no symptoms. If you have ANY symptoms of COVID-19, you need to self-isolate and book a PCR test instead.

Click on the links below to find out more and access free Rapid COVID-19 Tests:

Workforce Testing for Employers with 10 or more employees

Workforce Testing for Employers with less than 10 employees

Regular Rapid Testing for the Public

Testing to Support Events and Large Gatherings

FAQs

General questions

  1. What is a Rapid COVID-19 Test?

Rapid COVID-19 Tests use a Lateral Flow Device (LFD). The test detects the virus that causes COVID-19.

LFD testing uses nasal and/or throat swab samples to detect a protein (antigen) produced by the virus at its most infectious stage.
 

  1. What's the difference between a PCR test and a Rapid Test?

A Rapid Test provides a result within 30 minutes. PCR tests are sent to a lab for processing. 

Rapid Tests should only be used by people with no symptoms. If you have ANY symptoms of COVID-19, you need to self-isolate and book a PCR test instead.
 

  1. Who should take Rapid Tests?

Anyone who wants or needs to test can access Rapid Tests. Rapid Testing twice a week is strongly recommended for anyone over the age of 18, if you:

  • Have a large number of close contacts
  • Spend time in a crowd or a busy public place
  • Socialise in a group
  • Will have contact with someone who is clinically vulnerable
  • Can’t get the vaccine due to your age or a health condition

For example, you should consider Rapid Testing if you:

  • Have contact with colleagues or customers at your workplace
  • Study at school, college or university
  • Visit family and friends
  • Attend an event or social gathering
  • Use public transport
  • Play sports or attend other group activities
  • Visit a hospital or social care setting
  • Travel away from your home
  1. How frequently should I get tested?

It’s recommended to use a Rapid Test twice per week. Regular testing helps to identify if you have COVID before it spreads to the people close to you.
 

  1. Why do we need confirmatory PCR testing if Rapid Tests are accurate?

A confirmatory PCR test is required following a positive Rapid test. The confirmatory PCR test enables genomic sequencing which can identify different variants of the virus.

Rapid Tests are accurate. Research shows that for every 1,000 Rapid Tests carried out, there is less than one false positive result. A confirmatory PCR test reduces the likelihood of anyone self-isolating unnecessarily.
 

  1. Is the test safe?

Yes – Rapid Tests using Lateral Flow Devices are validated technology, they are safe, and the results are trusted. The tests have undergone rigorous testing and evaluation, including at Public Health England’s research laboratories, to ensure they are verified for use.

 

  1. Should I use Rapid Tests if I’ve already had the vaccine?

Yes – it is still possible to catch and pass on COVID-19 following vaccination. Some people, including young children and those with health conditions, can’t be vaccinated yet. Regular Rapid Testing helps to keep them safe. 

 

  1. Is Rapid Testing safe during pregnancy?

Yes, Rapid Tests are safe to use during pregnancy.


Access to tests
 

  1.  I have Covid-19 symptoms, should I take an LFD test?

No – if you have COVID-19 symptoms you should book a PCR test by:

  1. Where can I get Rapid Tests?

If you’re over the age of 18 and need Rapid COVID-19 Tests, but cannot access them through your employer or place of education, you can:

  1. Do I have to pay for Rapid Tests?

No, Rapid tests are free for delivery or collection.

Get help taking a test
 

  1. Where can I find instructions on taking the test?

Testing is simple and each kit provides clear step-by-step instructions. If you’re unsure how to follow the steps, you can find video demonstrations and guides on gov.uk.

 

  1. Do Rapid Tests require a professional to perform the test?

No. Rapid Tests have been validated for self-swabbing. This means that you can use a mirror to perform the swab at home or at an Assisted Test Site.  Or you can get a friend or family member to help.

Your test result

 

  1. How long does it take for my results to be ready?

The instructions in your test kit will show how long you need to wait before reading the result. It’s important to read your result at the correct time. If you leave the test for too long, you should take the test again using a new kit.

 

  1. What do my results mean?

There are different types of Rapid Tests. You should follow the instructions in your test kit to read the test result. If you’re unsure how to read the result, you can find video demonstrations and guides on gov.uk.
 

  1. My result was positive, negative or void, what should I do?

If positive – you need to self-isolate and book a PCR test.

If negative – it is likely you were not infectious at the time the test was taken. A negative test result, however, is not a guarantee that you do not have COVID-19. You should continue to follow the latest restrictions.

If void – this means that the test has not run correctly. You need to take another Rapid Test. Do not reuse anything from the first test.

Reporting your test result

 

  1. Why do I need to report the test result?

Reporting your result, negative, positive or void, helps us understand where COVID-19 cases are increasing so we can take the right action to keep people safe.
 

  1. Where do I report my test result?

You can report your test result here. If you cannot use the online service, call 119 (free from mobiles and landlines). Lines are open every day, 7am to 11pm. 119 provides support in 200 languages. InterpreterNow is a free online British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter service for 119.

 

  1. What is a Unique Organisation Number? 

If you work for an organisation or business that participates in workforce testing, you may have been given a Unique Organisation Number (UON). The UON can be entered when you report your test result. Using the UON helps organisations and businesses to understand if case numbers are increasing and take actions to prevent COVID-19 spreading.

If you attend an event you may also be given a UON so that the number of cases related to the event can be monitored.

 

  1. I work or study in a school, do I still need to report my test result?

Yes, everyone who takes a Rapid Test, using a Lateral Flow Device, should report their result online, even if your result is negative or void.

 

  1. What happens if you have a Rapid Test that is positive, but your PCR test comes back negative?

In the unlikely event that you do receive a positive Rapid Test result, but your PCR test comes back negative, you and your household no longer have to self-isolate. You should continue to follow the latest restrictions.

 

  1. How do I get confirmation of my Rapid Test result?

After reporting your Rapid Test, you should receive a text message to confirm your test result.

 

Workforce testing

  1.  Why should businesses introduce workforce testing?

Rapid Testing helps to keep your employees, colleagues and customers safe by identifying people who have the virus but do not have symptoms.

The benefits of Rapid Testing technology include:

    • The ability to be used at the point of need and at scale
    • Confirmation of a positive or negative test result within half an hour.
    • Minimal workforce training required
    • No requirement for laboratory analysis

 

  1. How do we express our interest in introducing Rapid Testing for our workforce?

Organisations interested in introducing workforce testing should submit an expression of interest or find more information here.

 

  1. How frequently should staff be tested?

It’s recommended that staff should test themselves twice per week.

 

  1. Do we expect a high number of positive results?

No. The number of positive Rapid Tests that we have seen to date has been very low. Regular Rapid Resting provides an early warning system to keep your business open and safe this winter.

 

  1. Do I have to participate in Rapid Testing in my workplace if it is introduced – Is it compulsory?

Rapid Testing is recommended but not mandatory.

 

  1. How do I get my Rapid Test result from a workplace testing scheme?

Employees should receive their test result within 60 minutes of undertaking their test.

Testing for events

  1. Do I need to get a Rapid COVID Test to attend an event?

It is recommended that anyone attending an event should take a Rapid COVID Test before they attend, and on days two and eight after the event. Some event organisers may also require attendees to provide evidence of a negative Rapid Test result.

 

  1. Where can I get Rapid Tests to attend an event?

Rapid Tests may be provided by the event organiser. You can also:

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