Coronavirus (Covid-19) Asymptomatic Testing: Frequently Asked Questions
Many people who have Coronavirus (Covid-19) have no symptoms and could be spreading the virus without realising it.
The Health Secretary in Scotland has announced an expansion of community testing in areas across the country with a high prevalence of the virus.
Increased testing in this way will help us find and isolate more cases, giving us all a better chance of stopping the virus from spreading.
Who should go to an asymptomatic testing site (ATS)?
An ATS can be visited by anyone who does not have the following common symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19): a new continuous cough, fever/temperature of 37.8C or higher, or a loss/change in sense of smell/taste.
Anyone who has symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19) should follow the usual process and book a test by visiting nhsinform.scot or by calling 0300 303 2713.
You should not be tested at an ATS site if you’ve had a positive Coronavirus (Covid-19) test in the previous 90 days.
Why should I take part?
Asymptomatic testing helps to identify positive cases and break the chains of transmission of Coronavirus (Covid-19). This helps to provide additional protection for our communities.
Tests are completely voluntary and are there for anyone who may want one. It is hoped that many people will recognise the benefits of getting involved in local testing efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in their area.
How does the process work?
Sites testing for asymptomatic Coronavirus (Covid-19) operate on a walk-in basis with no booking required.
In some cases, certain groups of people may be invited to take a test (for example, those who cannot work from home), but anyone can go along and be tested as long as they do not currently have symptoms.
What type of tests will be used for Asymptomatic Community Testing and how do they work?
Lateral flow antigen tests (LFT) are a new kind of technology that can be used to test a higher proportion of asymptomatic people, better enabling us to identify and isolate more people who are at high likelihood of spreading virus.
A Lateral Flow Device (LFD) detects the presence or absence of Coronavirus (Covid-19) from a swab or saliva 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 lateral flow device. 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 long does the test take?
It takes less than 15 minutes to administer the test, and results are produced within an hour.
Are lateral flow tests less accurate than PCR tests?
Lateral flow tests (LFT) and PCR tests have different characteristics and different uses.
PCR tests have higher sensitivity but need to be processed in a laboratory, meaning that results take longer to confirm. PCR tests are best used in specific cases, such as when someone has Coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms.
While lateral flow tests have lower sensitivity than PCR, they deliver results far faster and do not require a lab. As such, they allow us to test far larger numbers of asymptomatic people and get them their test result faster than with PCR technology.
This will enable us to identify a large percentage of people who are infected and infectious, but asymptomatic and unaware that they have the virus.
Do these tests work well for people without symptoms?
Lateral flow tests (LFT) are a validated technology. They are safe to carry out and the results are trusted.
Extensive clinical evaluation has shown that LFTs are specific and sensitive enough to be deployed for mass testing, including for asymptomatic people.
What will this test tell me?
If you receive a positive result, it is likely that you were infectious at the time the test was taken.
The antigen test cannot detect very low levels of Coronavirus (Covid-19) in a sample, so if you have only recently been infected and are in the incubation period, or if you have mostly recovered, then the test may not give a positive result.
What should I do if my test is positive?
If you test positive you will need to self-isolate for 10 days. You will be contacted by the local contact tracing team so that your close contacts can be identified. These close contacts will also be asked to self-isolate for 10 days.
If you are asked to self-isolate and are concerned about the financial impact:
• Your employer should be able to assist you
• You may be eligible/entitled to statutory sick pay
• You may be eligible for a Self-Isolation Support Grant
For more information on these and other types of support available, please contact the National Assistance Helpline on 0800 111 4000 or Textphone on 0800 111 4114.
The Scottish Government has made more advice available through a self-isolation factsheet.
What should I do if my test is negative?
You should continue to follow the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus.
You can help protect yourself, others and the NHS by remembering FACTS:
• F – Face Coverings
• A – Avoid crowded places
• C – Clean hands regularly
• T – Two-meter distancing (where possible/applicable)
• S – Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms
If you later develop Coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms you can book a test by visiting nhsinform.scot or by calling 0300 303 2713.