When should you do a lateral flow test and when to take a PCR – all you need to know – Daily Record

When should you do a lateral flow test and when to take a PCR?

As Coronavirus numbers rise in Scotland, you might want to make sure you aren’t positive and at risk of passing it on to your loved ones, friends and colleagues.

There are two main ways of checking if you have coronavirus.

One is called a PCR test and the other is called a rapid lateral flow test

Anyone testing positive for the virus is legally required to self-isolate, even if you’ve had one or two doses or even no doses of a Covid-19 vaccine .

So what test do you take and when? Here we explain when you should take a PCR test and when you should take a Rapid Flow Test.

Which test you get will depend on whether or not you have any symptoms.

The symptoms to look out for, even if mild, are:


If you have no symptoms but want to quickly check your Covid status — ahead of maybe going to a family member’s home or attending a large event — then you will need a lateral flow test.

A lateral-flow COVID-19 test in a mass testing centre set up in St. Andrews
(Image: Getty Images)


If you develop any symptoms, need to confirm a result or have been in close contact with somebody who has tested positive, you will need to take a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test.

While lateral flow tests give a quick result using something that looks and acts similarly to a pregnancy test, PCR tests are sent away to a lab to be checked.

Lateral flow tests are free, rapid tests and give you results within 30 minutes.

Although they are convenient and you can order them to keep at home from the Government’s website they are not as sensitive as PCR tests, and you should only use one if you have no symptoms.

You can order one pack of seven rapid lateral flow tests per day online and they are posted out in two days.

You can also collect two test packs from local pharmacies or community centres if you need them sooner.

If you have ANY of the three main Covid-19 symptoms above then you need to book a free PCR test.

You can be sent these to your home like the lateral flow tests, or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through coronavirus test centre.

They will be sent to a laboratory after you have used them.

If you are not able to order your tests online, call 119 for free between 7am and 11pm.

If you’re are going on holiday abroad, you might be required to have coronavirus tests before you leave and reenter the UK.

You cannot use one of the NHS free tests for this purpose and will need to pay for these tests privately.

How often should you test for coronavirus?

One in three people with Covid-19 are asymptomatic and have no symptoms but they can still infect others according to the government’s site.

Close contact with an infected person, in the pub, at work, school and other places can cause the infection to spread.

By testing yourself twice a week, or once every three to four days, to check if you have the virus, you an play a part in stemming the spread.

If you have received two doses of the Covid vaccine, you can still pass the virus on – so need to still keep testing regularly.

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