Coronavirus testing explained

Throughout the pandemic, there have been frequent questions and queries surrounding the ‘testing’ of coronavirus and so we wanted to make sure you had up to date information to help you understand this, including advice against the purchase of unofficial tests from retailers at the moment.

What is an ‘antigen’ test?

Currently, if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), you can ask for a test to check if you have the virus. This is called an ‘antigen’ test, which is taken by a swab of the inside of your nose and back of your throat. This will tell you if you currently have Covid-19. You can find out more information on who can ask for a test and how to do this here.

What is an ‘antibody’ test?

There is another type of test, called an ‘antibody’ test, which is a blood test that looks for antibodies in the blood. This is to check if you have already had the virus. This test is not offered to the public by the Government as of yet, as they may not be accurate enough but they are at the start of outlining their antibody testing programme for testing the population. This could be by delivery of the tests to homes, or through local pharmacies. You can read more about this here.

Should I still social distance if I’ve been tested?

It is important to know that a positive antibody test – showing that you have had the virus – does not indicate any level of future protection or immunity from getting the virus again. So you must still follow the government and NHS advice on social distancing, until there is a better understanding of the spread of the virus and how long immunity lasts.

Purchasing unofficial tests

Although there are antibody tests available to purchase from some retailers, NHS England has cautioned people against buying these tests just yet, in case a person who tests positive is still infectious or is tempted to relax their compliance to the current social distancing guidance. Instead, the Government has agreed to buy an initial 10 million antibody tests from pharmaceutical companies, which have now passed testing by Public Health England. These are going to be made available for free through the NHS to those who need them, within weeks.

Phil Day By Phil Day Superintendent Pharmacist Published 27/05/2020