COVID-19: Rapid testing questions and answers

Click the boxes below to see our frequently asked questions and answers.

Why have I been asked to have a test?

COVID-19 is a virus which affects people in different ways. Some people can become extremely ill while one in three people can have the virus but show no symptoms at all and then unknowingly pass the virus on to others. New technology has continued to be developed and move at pace and lateral flow antigen tests have now launched as part of the government’s targeted testing plan.

In Salford, we are targeting our testing towards specific groups of people who are most at risk of exposure to the virus because of the employment sector they work in or their workplace and who, if they had COVID-19 without realising, would be at higher risk of spreading it to work colleagues or the general public.

We encourage all residents to get regular tests, to help everyone stay safe and stop the spread of the virus.

What happens when I get tested?

You will book an appointment to have a test at one of our testing centres in Salford. We aim to have testing sites as evenly spread across Salford as possible. You should attend the testing centre alone. We cannot allow children under the age of 16 into the testing centres.

The test is a nose and throat swab which you will do yourself with a long cotton bud. You will be given full instructions, but you simply swab the back of your throat and the inside of your nose for ten to 15 seconds each, and then pass over to the testing team who will process the result.

The tests are rapid turnaround tests that are processed on site without any need for sending samples to a laboratory. They are called lateral flow tests or LFTs for short.

The staff at the test sites have received special training to carry out the processing. Results are ready very quickly – usually 30 minutes to a couple of hours. If you choose to volunteer for the lateral flow testing, you will need to register on an app using your own mobile phone number to receive your test result by text or email.

The LFT detects the presence or absence of coronavirus by applying your swab sample to the device’s absorbent pad. The sample runs along the surface of the pad, showing at the end a visual positive or negative result dependent on the presence of the virus, much like the way a pregnancy test works. The test cannot tell whether you have had the virus in the past, or if you have recently been exposed to the virus but are not yet infectious.

These tests are different to the NHS tests for COVID-19 which are called PCR - polymerase chain reaction tests. The PCR tests detect viral genetic material called RNA and are very accurate. However it takes longer to get your PCR test result as it has to be processed in a laboratory, and may take 24 to 72 hours to get your result.

How accurate are lateral flow tests?

Lateral flow tests have different characteristics and uses to the PCR tests, which are the nose and throat swabs done in the national walk in or drive in testing centres for people with COVID-19 symptoms. PCR tests are more sensitive than lateral flow test, but they need to be sent to a laboratory to get the results, which makes them slower and more expensive. They are therefore well suited to specific use cases, such as those with COVID-19 symptoms.

While lateral flow tests have lower sensitivity than PCR, they deliver results far faster and do not require a lab, making them more scalable. This will help us to capture a large percentage of the people who are infected and infectious, but have no symptoms and unaware of the fact that they are possibly spreading COVID-19.

How do I book a test?

To book go to our book a rapid coronavirus test page.

We have test sites open at Eccles Old Town Hall, Beesley Green Community Centre, Wardley Community Centre, Buile Hill Hall Banqueting Suite, Salford Quays, Broughton Leisure Centre, Cadishead Community Park Hall, Salford Civic Centre and St Paul Peel Community Hall in Little Hulton.

You will need to book an appointment for your test, you cannot just turn up for a test. You will book your appointment through an app, which will show where/when the test appointments are available and at which venue.

It is very important that you do not attend these sites if you have COVID-19 symptoms, i.e. high temperature, a new continuous cough, and loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. If you have COVID-19 symptoms you must book a test.

How do I re-arrange a test appointment?

If you have already booked a rapid test but now wish to cancel or re-arrange the appointment please email your details to

How quickly will I get my result?

You will receive your test results by text or email from 30 mins to a couple of hours after you leave the test centre.

What if I test negative?

If your test result is negative, you don’t need to self-isolate (unless you develop symptoms of COVID-19, are a contact of a positive case or otherwise indicated).

However, the lateral flow antigen test cannot detect very low levels of COVID-19, so if you have only recently been infected or are in the incubation period, you may test negative. Therefore you must continue to follow the social distancing guidance by wearing a face covering, washing your hands and staying 2m apart from others.

How long does a negative test last?

If your test result is negative, it is likely that you were not infectious when the test was done. We recommend repeating the test twice a week, every three to four days, as this allows more infections to be detected.

What if I test positive?

If you test positive, you and anyone you live with should self-isolate immediately. You need to report your rapid lateral flow test result on GOV.UK as soon as possible and then get a PCR test (this test is sent to a lab) to confirm your result – get a PCR test to check if you have coronavirus on GOV.UK

Continue to self-isolate until you get the result of the PCR test.

If your PCR test is also positive then you must self-isolate immediately for ten days and everyone in your household, or who you’ve been in close contact with, must self-isolate for ten days. 'Close contact’ means having face-to-face contact with someone less than a metre away (even if a face covering is worn) or being within two metres of an infected person for 15 minutes or more.

If you test positive, you are advised to:

  • Go home immediately, wearing a face covering
  • Wherever possible you should travel home in your own vehicle or by walking or cycling
  • If that’s not possible, you should arrange for a member of your household to pick you up
  • Please avoid public transport or a taxi service. If you have no other option, arrange for a taxi to take you home preferably equipped with a protective screen between yourself and the driver
  • Your close contacts that are not showing COVID-19 symptoms should go home as they would normally do. If your contact develops symptoms, they should follow the same travel advice as above (fever, a new continuous cough or a change/loss to sense of smell/taste)
  • It is really important you follow government guidance on hygiene, including washing your hands throughout your time at a testing site and before you leave
  • After having a positive test, individuals eligible for vaccination should delay their vaccination by 28 days following the positive test date.

You can get more information on what to do via the government’s self isolation guidance

Who will be informed if I have a positive test?

You will be sent your test result via a test message. Public Health England and the NHS Track and Trace service will also be informed so they can offer advice on how to self-isolate as well as help identify who you’ve been in close contact with so they can also be advised to self-isolate and stop the spread of the virus. You will also be advised on what support is available to you, such as the Track and Trace £500 isolation support payment.

Can I get financial help if I test positive?

If you have been told by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, you may be entitled to some financial support. Find out more and apply for a Test and Trace support payment.

Whether you’re eligible for this support payment or not, if you need help, you can call our Spirit of Salford helpline. It’s been set up to help residents on the different issues they may be facing at the moment.

How often am I expected to have a test?

Best practice is twice a week as this allows more infections to be detected - but all testing is voluntary.

What if I refuse to be tested?

That's OK. We are hoping as many people as possible will recognise the benefits to testing and want to be involved in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Salford, but all testing is voluntary.

What if I have COVID-19 symptoms or just feel unwell? Can I still go to one of the sites?

No. This testing is only for people with no symptoms at all. If you have COVID symptoms or you feel unwell, you should book a test via GOV.UK or call 119. Please do not enter a test site if you have symptoms.

Will PPE be provided to me when I arrive for a test?

Everyone should wear a face covering when indoors. Should you forget your own face covering, we will have a small number to hand out.

If I am pregnant, can I still have a test?


I am clinically extremely vulnerable, should I be having these tests?

There is no harm in having a test when you are clinically extremely vulnerable. However, if you are shielding, you may decide that the risk of coming to a test site outweighs the benefit of being tested. Lateral flow tests are also only for frontline workers who are interacting with the public so, if you are shielding, we would assume you are not currently in a public-facing role.

Can people who have been isolating for, say, seven days because a child is positive but they don’t have symptoms go for a test and go to work if they are negative?

No. If you are isolating because you are a close contact of someone who is positive, you need to self-isolate for ten days. This is because it can take up to ten days before symptoms start to appear, so we cannot risk someone coming to the test centre who may potentially be positive.

My partner/work colleague/close contact has recently tested positive. Can I have a rapid test?

No, if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID, you must self-isolate for ten days.

A ‘close contact’ means you’ve had face-to-face contact with someone less than a metre away (even if a face covering is worn) or been within two metres of an infected person for 15 minutes or more.

If you start to feel unwell or show any of the typical COVID symptoms (fever, new continuous cough or a change/loss to your sense of smell/taste), please book a test via GOV.UK or call 119.

I haven’t had my result yet. Should I call 119?

You will receive your test results by text message or email from 30 minutes to a couple of hours after you leave the test centre. In the unlikely event you don’t get your result within 12 hours, please book a new appointment and we will be happy to re-test you. Please do not call 119 as they are not able to provide results from lateral flow tests.

Can my child be tested? 

We are targeting our testing to people who cannot work from home, therefore will not test those who are under 16 years old.

What will happen to my information?

You will book your appointment via a local app. Information on how we use your data for this is here.

Your test registration and result will be linked to the national app and you can access the Data Privacy Notice for this app.

Book a free rapid coronavirus test

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