COVID-19 frequently asked questions

Residents must continue to follow the guidance around testing to stop the spread.

Testing and test centres in Oxfordshire

What testing is available?

There are two types of testing available. Symptom and symptom-free testing.

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should request a test as soon as possible. More information, test site locations and how to book is available on our symptom testing pages.
  • If you don’t have symptoms, you can now access free rapid tests from a number of different places.

How can I access testing if I don’t have symptoms?

You can find details on where to access test kits on our main symptom-free testing page. .

What are the different tests used for?

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test looks for the genetic material of the virus – this test is used predominantly for people who have COVID symptoms and needs to be done by a trained professional. Tests are sent to a laboratory to be processed, and the results are then communicated.

The lateral flow antigen test (LFT), looks for parts of the surface of the virus – this test is used predominantly for people who do not have COVID symptoms. They can be self-administered and do not require a laboratory to process them. You can see the results on the test kit within 30 minutes.

How do I take the test?

Each kit comes with clear instructions, but the lateral flow device test, (designed to be easily self-administered) involves people taking a swab of the back of the throat and inside of the nose. The result is confirmed in 30 minutes and needs to be reported to the NHS on GOV.UK. Once a home test is completed, the kit should be placed into the bag provided and disposed of with general household waste.

How many times should I get tested a week?

To ensure possible cases are identified quickly, it is recommended that you use a rapid lateral flow test twice a week.

Can I use the test kits I collect on my school-age children?

Community collect lateral flow tests are for those over the age of 16 and should not be used for testing younger children. Children and young people at school or college should continue to use lateral flow tests provided to them by their school.

Should I do any testing on my children under the age of 11?

Parents may wish to consider whether to test children under the age of 11. Advice from Public Health England is that there is currently limited public health benefit from testing primary school-age children with lateral flow devices. Primary school-age children may find the LFD testing process invasive and unpleasant and are unable to self-swab. This advice is kept under review.

What happens if I test positive?

If the result is positive you will need to book into a symptom test centre and take a PCR test. You will be asked to self-isolate and follow the national guidance. A self-isolation information pack has been prepared to provide you with advice and sources of support.

What happens if I test negative?

Even with a negative result, you may still have the virus so please continue to be cautious

Which tests are more accurate?

Lateral flow and PCR tests have different characteristics and different uses. PCR tests are more sensitive but, as they require a laboratory to process results, they are slower. They are therefore better suited to specific cases, such as those showing symptoms.

While LFTs have lower sensitivity, they can give us results much faster. As such, they allow us to test far larger numbers of people showing no symptoms and get them their test result faster. This will enable us to capture a large percentage of people who are infected and infectious, but unaware of the fact they are possibly spreading COVID-19.

Do I need to attend the same testing site for each weekly test?

No. You can choose to visit whichever site is most convenient for you.

What happens if I develop COVID-like symptoms between tests?

If at any point you experience COVID-19 symptoms – such as a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you should book a COVID test through the main national system by visiting GOV.UK or by calling NHS 119.

Do I have to be tested?

No, but it is strongly advised that everyone has tests twice a week because that will help positive tests be quickly identified and stop the spread of the virus.

If I test, does it mean I can also access a vaccination?

No. The testing programme is operated separately from the vaccination programme. If you do a test, it does not mean you are eligible for a COVID vaccination. Those people who are eligible for vaccination will be contacted individually by the NHS.