AS lateral flow tests are introduced into schools and workplaces, Darlington's Director of Public Health has answered your questions and addressed common misconceptions. 

The use of lateral flow (asymptomatic) Covid testing has played a huge role in recent weeks as the region's school children have made a return. 

In the months to come, they are expected to play a wider part in our return to "normality," with suggestion that some venues will require them before entry. 

But across the area, questions on their accuracy and the frequency of their use have been raised by The Northern Echo's readers.

SEE MORE: 9 of your Covid vaccine questions ANSWERED by a Darlington health expert

These questions have been put to Penny Spring, Director of Public Health at Darlington Borough Council, for responses and clarification.

1. How accurate are the tests, some claim they are inaccurate and often give false readings?

We hear this one quite a lot from people who are still unsure about the testing process.

Let me reassure you that the tests, when taken properly, are extremely accurate at detecting Covid-19 cases.

The NHS has looked very carefully at the evidence that’s emerging from the results of tests completed at homes and in testing sites across the country, which suggests that they are at least 99.9 per cent specific in real-life scenarios.

This means that the risk of false positives is extremely low – less than one in a thousand.

2. If you test positive using a lateral flow test, do you need to get an ‘official’ test at a test site?

Yes – if you get a positive result from a lateral flow test, taken either at home or at one of Darlington’s community testing sites, you must immediately self-isolate and order or book an ‘official’ (i.e, PCR) Covid-19 test from the government website:

This is to detect the maximum number of Covid-19 cases with variants, which can be detected by PCR tests but not lateral flow tests.

3. Do you get an official confirmation to show your employer/school if you test positive for Covid-19 using the lateral flow?

Yes – if you have taken a test at one of Darlington’s community testing sites, you will receive a text and/or email from the NHS to confirm the result of your test.

These messages will be dated and include your name and NHS number, meaning they are suitable to show your school or employer as evidence you have completed the test, as well as your result (positive or negative).

Alternatively, if you have completed a test at home, you can take a photograph of your completed test with the result showing. You may need to include additional identifying factors in the photograph for it to be used as evidence for your school or employer, however.

Please check with your school, college or workplace on what they will need to be provided with to confirm a positive test result completed at home.

4. If I have travelled abroad for essential reasons, such as work, can I take a lateral flow test instead of self-isolating?

Yes - but only if your profession is exempt from quarantine rules under the new government guidance.

Professions exempt from quarantining who can access the bespoke testing scheme (commencing 6 April) include hauliers, bus drivers and oil and gas workers.

If you are not exempt because of your profession then you must self-isolate for 10 days, even without symptoms, and only take a lateral flow test at the end of your self-isolation period. 

5. Why is it important to take the tests twice a week instead of weekly or fortnightly?

Although it may seem inconvenient, taking a lateral flow test twice a week is the best way to ensure you are not passing on Covid-19 without realising.

As the lateral flow tests can only tell you if you are positive or negative at the time of taking the test, it is essential for all of us to get tested regularly, and twice weekly has been assessed as the most practical way to do so.

6. Are tests available for businesses to order and can businesses block-book appointments at the Darlington’s testing centres?

Yes – if you cannot work from home, your business or employer can now order tests to be delivered to your place of work for twice weekly testing.

Alternatively, you can block book appointments at our community testing sites, which have appointments available online in fortnightly blocks.

7 . Will tests become available to click and collect in Darlington?

Yes – you can click and collect tests to do at home at pharmacies across the country, including in Darlington at A.K. Medical Consultancy, Cockerton.

To find your nearest click and collect site, visit the national NHS Test and Trace map:

8. What role in society do you expect tests will play as rules are lifted?

Alongside the Covid-19 vaccination programme, I believe lateral flow testing will have a huge role to play in getting us all back to a more normal way of life.

I’d like to see lateral flow testing encouraged by businesses and venues across the borough, which will allow us to enjoy our favourite activities – including seeing friends at the pub and going to concerts – as safely as possible.

The council has said its six community testing sites will be closed on Good Friday (April 2), Easter Sunday (April 4) and Easter Monday (April 5).