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Frequently asked questions

What is coronavirus testing and why is it important?

Testing is the most effective way to control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Southwark is now offering two types of COVID-19 tests:

  • PCR tests - these are for people who have symptoms of the virus (a new persistent cough, high temperature or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste)
  • lateral flow tests – these are for people who are not showing any symptoms (symptom-free testing)

In addition to getting tested, the most important thing we can all do to prevent the spread of the virus is to remember the basics:

  • wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds
  • wear your face covering in enclosed spaces
  • keep your distance - try to stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you do not live with (or anyone not in your support bubble)

Where can I access lateral flow testing in Southwark?

Lateral flow testing is being offered at London Bridge Station and the Damilola Taylor Centre in Peckham. Further sites may be added in the future. You can book a test online on our website

What is lateral flow testing?

This testing is for people who feel well and do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

The aim is to find as many COVID-19 infections as possible in people that do not know they are infectious and could spread it to others. As many as one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and may be spreading it unknowingly. When we find these infections, the individual can self-isolate to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, book a PCR test at one of our other Southwark sites online or by calling 119.

How is this different from other types of testing?

PCR testing is for people with symptoms. It uses a test that must be processed by a laboratory.

Lateral flow testing is for people who do not have symptoms. The test kit is called a ‘lateral flow device’, which does not need a lab, and has a rapid turnaround time for results.

What is a lateral flow device?

A Lateral Flow Device is a type of test kit that doesn’t need a lab, and gives you fast results. For example, a pregnancy test is a type of lateral flow device. To use the coronavirus lateral flow device, you need to take a swab of your nose and throat. This swab is mixed with an extraction fluid, and the fluid is put onto the lateral flow device. This type of test gives a result within half an hour.

Can everyone get a test?

Lateral flow tests are only for people who don’t have symptoms. If you do have COVID-19 symptoms, you must stay at home (self-isolate) and book a PCR test at one of our other Southwark sites online or by ringing 119. 

If you don’t have symptoms and you need to leave home for essential reasons, you can get a regular free test. This includes leaving home for food shopping and if you can't work from home. If you would like to get a test, we recommend getting tested up to twice a week.

Will this test pick up all COVID-19 infections?

No. This test will detect most infections, but not all. Because a single negative result could be a false negative, it should not change the way you work or behave. Even after a negative test it is important to continue to follow the measures that protect others; regular handwashing, wearing a face covering and social distancing.

Why use a test that doesn’t pick up all infections?

There's no test for COVID-19 that will detect every single infection. This test has several benefits - it gives results quickly and does not require a laboratory to process the result. This means we can use it to test lots of people in a short space of time.

If we did not use this test, people would continue to work and spread COVID-19 without realising it. By using this test, we won’t find all infections, but we can find most infections - which will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

How often can I get a lateral flow test?

You can access repeat lateral flow testing at the community testing site. Individuals may wish to take the test twice a week, every three to four days, as this allows more infections to be detected.

What will I need to bring to my appointment?

  • your booking confirmation
  • your smartphone (if you have one)
  • a face covering

Is the test site safe for me to attend?

Yes. The testing sites are COVID-19 secure and we're taking steps to ensure they remain safe for residents. Those attending testing should maintain social distance at all times and are required to wear a face covering unless they're in the process of taking the test.

What will the test involve?

The swab test takes around 15 minutes to administer and results will be delivered quickly - usually on the same day.

You will do the test yourself, taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud. Staff can offer support by talking you through the process, but they won’t be able to touch you or take the swab for you.

Does the test hurt?

No. The test may be a bit uncomfortable, but this will only be for a few seconds. You perform the test yourself by swabbing the back of your throat and your nose.

When will I get the results of my test?

The tests are processed on site, meaning that a test result can be returned quickly and usually on the same day.

I’ve tested positive - what does that mean?

It’s likely that you have COVID-19. You will need to self-isolate for ten days along with any members of your household and other contacts identified from the two days prior to your test. You may be contacted by the NHS or your local council and asked for information to help the NHS alert your close contacts.

I’ve tested negative, what does that mean?

A negative test result means you're unlikely to be infected with COVID-19. However, if you have recently become infected this may not yet show on this type of test.

This means that even after a negative test, it's important to continue to follow the measures that protect others; regular handwashing, wearing a face covering, observing 2-metre social distancing.

Can I stop social distancing?

No. Because a single negative result could be a false negative, it should not change the way you work or behave. You must still follow the measures that protect others - regular handwashing, wearing a face covering, observing 2 metres social distancing.

Southwark is currently in Tier 4 and you should continue to follow the guidance set by government for Tier 4 areas.

I don’t have any symptoms myself, but I live with someone who has COVID-19. Should I book a lateral flow test?

No. If you're living with someone who has COVID-19, you should be self-isolating in line with the national guidelines. If you later develop symptoms, you should book a PCR test instead.

Can I get any kind of financial help if I test positive?

Eligible individuals who test positive through the lateral flow testing programme, and are asked to self-isolate, will be entitled to the £500 Test and Trace support payment in the same way as a regular PCR test.

Find out more and apply for a Test and Trace support payment if you test positive and you live in Southwark.

Who can I contact if I am having problems booking a test?

If you're having problems booking a test, or have not received confirmation of your appointment, contact support@aeternalvitalis.co.uk.

Please provide any information about the problem as well as your booking time, date and email address so that a member of the team can follow up with you.

What to do if you have a query regarding your test result?

If you have a query regarding your result or did not receive your result, email support@aeternalvitalis.co.uk with your booking details (name, time and date of booking and the email address used to book) and they can help you. Please check your spam/junk email folders in your email prior to messaging.

Page last updated: 19 February 2021

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