You may have heard the Government talking about Lateral Flow or Lateral Flow Antigen testing, which is a fast and affordable method of testing for COVID-19.

These tests are useful, as you can do them yourself at home, overseas, or under the supervision of a trained professional. The key difference between RT-PCR testing and lateral flow is that the test result is shown on a small handheld device.

How the Lateral Flow Antigen Test Works

The lateral flow antigen devices used by Project Screen collect cells from the nose which are then mixed with a reagent and placed into the lateral flow cassette. In about 10 minutes your result is indicated in the lateral flow device in the form of coloured bars.

timing a lateral flow test using an iphone

You can do the lateral flow test in a personal or professional setting and get the results right then and there—this is slightly different from other types of COVID-19 testing:

  • RT-PCR tests send samples to a lab or for processing and typically take 24 hrs to turn around
  • OxLAMP technology can be used in settings like Airports where a mobile lab can provide results in less than two hours

Is the Lateral Flow Test for COVID-19 Accurate?

In a word: Yes.

While RT-PCR and OxLAMP tests are the most accurate, a press release published by the UK Department of Health and Social Care (March 2021) stated that: Lateral flow tests can show a specificity of 99.9%. This means, fewer than one false positive in every 1,000 tests carried out.

Further good news is that this research was carried out using millions of people which is important for scientific rigour. In the same article, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“This new data further confirms what we know – these rapid tests are extremely accurate and are helping dramatically curb COVID cases. On Monday alone, we conducted over 1.5 million tests.”

It’s worth mentioning that these lateral flow tests were carried out in a supervised setting, which means that expert instruction was given to the participants and the test was processed by qualified individuals.

Lateral Flow Testing at Home

A huge advantage of lateral flow testing is that an individual can take the test at home and process their own test result.

using swab for COVID-19 lateral flow test

To keep standards high, some precautions can be taken to maximise the accuracy of the lateral flow test. These include:

  • Having clean and sanitized hands
  • Working in a clean environment
  • Making sure that a good connection is made between the swab and nose
  • Ensuring enough sample is collected from the nose
  • Mixing the sample with the regent effectively
  • Reading the result after 10 mins, but before 20 mins

Lateral Flow Testing and Travel

Privately bought lateral flow tests can be used for travel in two main ways.

Travelling out of England 

For some countries lateral flow tests are applicable as a Fit to Fly test, whereas for other countries you will need a PCR test. Note, you can’t use an NHS test for travel purposes. You can read more about travelling to other countries in this blog post and in this government article.

Travelling into England

Before travelling into England, you’ll need to do a COVID-19 test three days before departure. As part of a round trip, starting in the UK, this is usually a lateral flow antigen test. Also note, you can’t use an NHS test for travel purposes. You can read more about travelling into the UK in this blog post.

Project Screen and Lateral Flow Testing

Lateral flow testing is both fast and economical, which means it’s great for testing people several times a week, for travel, or for events, professional and personal reasons.

Lateral Flow Antigen tests are part of our offer with Virgin Atlantic, where you can buy a bundle containing a lateral flow test, to suit your travel plans. For the destinations that Virgin flies to, we have a calculator to help you understand what kind of test you need.

Virgin Atlantic Flies to Several Amber Countries

We have recently used lateral flow testing with Mustard Foods, where we trained their staff on how to take a sample and run the test themselves.

Are you going on holiday?

Read our travel blog posts:

The Holiday Maker’s Guide to COVID Testing

What is Fit to Fly in 1 minute?