Twice weekly tests for coronavirus: What you need to know
- Credit: Suffolk County Council
With Norfolk's coronavirus rates dropping, testing, alongside the vaccination programme, is seen as a key way to keep them down.
Secondary school pupils and staff will be regularly tested from next week, when schools start welcoming all pupils back to the classroom.
But Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's director of public health, is urging all adults who are out and about for work - and those seeing friends or relatives when care homes allow visits again - to get tested twice a week.
Here's what you need to know about the tests and the various way in which you can get tested:
What tests are available?
Secondary school and college students will be tested twice a week.
Initially, they will get tests at school or college before transitioning to twice weekly home testing.
The government has also said all households with primary and secondary school and college age children, and childcare and support bubbles, will be able to get twice weekly tests.
Norfolk County Council is providing mobile testing sites where people can get those tests.
Sites are up and running in various locations in Norwich, King's Lynn, Great Yarmouth and South Norfolk. More, including Broadland, are due to be added.
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A community collect service is also being considered, so that people can pick up home testing kits, but details have yet to be announced.
The council is also providing workplace testing kits for companies, while larger businesses can order those kits from the government.
What are the tests and how long does it take to get results?
The tests in schools, the testing hubs and in the workplace are lateral flow tests.
They detect the coronavirus antigen produced when a person is infectious with coronavirus, by applying a swab from the nose and throat to a test kit.
They produce a result within 30 minutes and the results do not have to be processed by a laboratory.
How accurate are they?
Dr Smith said lateral flow tests were "very specific", so a positive result meant there was a "very high" chance somebody was positive.
She said the tests were less sensitive, so would not pick up everybody with Covid-19, but would pick up people with a high viral load - the most infectious.
She said negative tests did not mean people definitely did not have the virus, so people still needed to focus on social distancing, hand washing etc.
Do I have to get tested?
The tests are encouraged, but not mandatory.
What if I test positive?
People who test positive through a rapid test, must start self-isolating straight away and order a PCR test - a swab test analysed in a laboratory via www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
Why is it important to get tested so often?
Dr Smith says testing, and the vaccination programme, are key to keeping rates down.
The idea is that, by identifying asymptomatic cases, people who did not have any symptoms of the virus can self-isolate, breaking the transmission of the virus.
As people return to school and workplaces, that increases the number of contacts people have, so regular tests can pick up infections and prevent the spread.
How do I book a test?
Community testing can be arranged by visiting www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/coronavirus/testing/symptom-free-testing where locations and dates of testing sites are available.
Workplace testing details are at www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/coronavirus/testing/workplace-surveillance-testing
People with symptoms should book a home test via www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. Results of those are usually back within 48 hours.
How much is all this costing and who is paying?
The UK Government has been purchasing kits. The cost per kit is not disclosed due to commercial confidentiality and sensitivities.
In December, the Department for Education allocated £78m to support secondary schools and colleges in getting tests, with funding differing according to the size of schools.