Alexandra Falconer | 31 Mar 2020 | Latest Articles, Gut Health, Test

How To Get A Coronavirus Test (UK)

If you’ve had symptoms such as high temperature, a dry cough, headache and body aches, you likely want to find out if coronavirus was responsible.

The good news? There’s now a way to find out if you’ve already been exposed to coronavirus.

Read on for the answers to all your coronavirus testing questions, or check out our coronavirus antibody test.

Contents

What are the different types of coronavirus test?
What’s the point of doing a coronavirus test?
Who needs to self-isolate and how long for?
How can key workers get a coronavirus test?
How can vulnerable or at risk groups get tested for coronavirus?
Who can get a coronavirus home test?
How much does a coronavirus test cost?
How accurate are coronavirus tests?
When should I take this test?
Which other countries have coronavirus test kits?
Will coronavirus test kits be available on the NHS?
How does a coronavirus home test kit work, and how do I get one?
What happens if I test positive?
What happens if I test negative?
How to get a Healthpath coronavirus test kit
Why is Healthpath selling a coronavirus test kit?
Key takeaways

What are the different types of coronavirus test?

There are a few types of coronavirus test and, due to conflicting reports, it easy to be confused as to whether they work or not. Let’s take a look at the different types of technology:

ELISA

This stands for ‘enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay’ test. This test detects antibodies, which means that it’s useful to find out whether or not you’ve already been exposed to the virus. You can take a sample at home, send it off to a lab, and get results within 72 hours.

When these tests first came on the market, they looked for two types of antibodies: IgM and IgG. However, trials of the test showed that the IgM result was only accurate 50% of the time. For that reason, the best tests now only report on IgG. Healthpath has partnered with a lab that does exactly this.

When you’re first exposed to coronavirus, it takes up to 21 days for your body to make antibodies, so if you’re suffering symptoms now, it’s too soon to use this test.

PCR

This refers to ‘polymerase chain reaction’ test. This test is for people with active symptoms. It’s the one currently used in hospitals and is available on prescription only. You can get results within a day.

Lateral flow immunoassay (rapid) test

This is also called the ‘cassette’ test because it looks a little bit like a cassette. This is an antibody test (to identify past exposure) but, unlike the ELISA one, you can get results within ten minutes at home.

The UK government purchased lateral flow immunoassay (rapid) tests from China based on studies saying they were accurate. However, when independent labs in Oxford tested them, they were found to be highly unreliable. Until the technology is developed and gains government approval for general use, it’s best to steer clear of these tests.

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What’s the point of doing a coronavirus test?

Because everyone’s symptoms can be different, we don’t know whether or not someone has been exposed to coronavirus without testing them. The symptoms can also look a lot like ‘normal’ flu or a cold.

Effective testing could help us move on to the ‘test, trace and isolate’ approach that they’ve been using in South Korea—ultimately helping us to control the spread of the virus.

Long term, we need to achieve what’s called ‘herd immunity’. This is when enough people have had the infection—around 60 per cent of the population or more—that it can no longer spread rapidly. But we need to reach this state in a controlled manner, otherwise our healthcare system will be overwhelmed.

Testing is a crucial part of this, as it helps us to identify the most at-risk people and areas. Over the next few weeks and months, effective testing could help the government relax the social distancing and isolation precautions.
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Who needs to self-isolate and how long for?

At the time of writing (21 April 2020) everyone in the UK should be practising social distancing and some degree of self-isolation—only going outside for food, health reasons or work (if you can’t work from home).

If you have any symptoms of coronavirus, you should self-isolate for seven days if you live alone, or 14 days if you live with other people.

Testing could help you determine when you can return to work outside your home, especially if you’re a key worker. This is because if a test identifies coronavirus antibodies in your blood, it’s likely that you’ve already had the infection. Scientists are working hard to determine whether this means you have immunity to coronavirus, and whether or not you can still pass it on to other people.

Whatever your situation, it’s important you regularly check government guidelines for coronavirus.
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How can key workers get a coronavirus test?

If your employer offers you a test, you should take it up. Otherwise, you can buy an ELISA test privately. Healthpath is one of a number of companies offering this test to the UK public at no profit.

As of 21 April 2020, the UK government is saying key workers will have first priority for all tests.

You can register today to receive a test kit as soon as they’re available for you. If you’re a key worker, send the relevant documentation to corona@healthpath.com and we’ll let you know how we can help.
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How can vulnerable or at risk groups get tested for coronavirus?

The policy on coronavirus testing is changing all the time, and varies across regions of the UK. We advise keeping up to date on the latest announcements through the gov.uk website.

It’s possible that at-risk or vulnerable groups (including the over-70s, pregnant women and those with pre-existing conditions) will be able to get tested at some point through their GP or local health clinic, but as of 21 April 2020 that hasn’t happened yet.
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Who can get a coronavirus home test?

As of 21 April 2020, testing is not yet widely available at home.

The UK government purchased lateral flow immunoassay (rapid) tests from China based on studies saying they were highly accurate. However, when independent labs in Oxford tested them, they were found to be unreliable.

Work is ongoing to create a test that gives accurate results at home. Until then, you can take a blood sample at home and post it off to a lab for analysis.

You can register today to receive an ELISA test kit—that will let you know if you’ve already been exposed to coronavirus— as soon as they’re available for you.
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How much does a coronavirus test cost?

You can buy an ELISA coronavirus test for £85. If the lateral flow immunoassay (rapid) coronavirus test is developed to the point where it achieves government approval, it will be available for £30.

According to current knowledge, the ELISA coronavirus test is the more reliable option (especially when it uses two types of tests to validate itself).
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Coronavirus testing infographic

How accurate are coronavirus tests?

The different coronavirus tests offer different levels of accuracy:

ELISA

According to the best available research, this test is the most reliable method for identifying coronavirus antibodies. However, we at Healthpath want you to be aware that studies so far have been small, and that figures may change as research develops.

The antibody test works by mixing your blood sample with a solution containing proteins from the virus. If antibodies to coronavirus are present in your blood, they will recognise and bind to these proteins, triggering a colour change.

As you learnt above, there are two types of detectable antibodies: IgM and IgG. It’s harder to identify IgM accurately, which is why the most reliable tests only report on IgG.

It’s important that you take this test at the right time. Antibodies can take up to 21 days to become identifiable, which means if you take the test too soon, you could get a false-negative result.

PCR

The PCR test is for people who have an active infection. It’s difficult to get consolidated figures on the accuracy of this type of test, mainly because of user error. If you don’t push the swab far enough up your nose, for example, you are more likely to get a false-negative result.

For this reason, the PCR test is only available on prescription and through a health professional.

Lateral flow immunoassay (rapid) test

Like the ELISA option, the lateral flow immunoassay (rapid) test looks at antibodies so can determine when you have already been exposed to coronavirus.

The test operates in a similar way to a pregnancy test. When a blood sample is added to one end of the test, it flows along the test strip and if coronavirus-specific IgM and IgG antibodies are present, two lines will appear in the test window. Sometimes these lines can be faint, which can make interpreting the test results more challenging.

The accuracy varies according to the test manufacturer but, at the time of writing (21 April 2020), they have been deemed too unreliable for public use.

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When should I take this test?

The ELISA test cannot identify acute (active) coronavirus infection. The only way to do that is to get a PCR test on prescription.

The ELISA test can tell you whether you’ve already been exposed to coronavirus. But it’s important you take the test at the right time. If you take it too early (when you are still experiencing symptoms, for example), your body may not have produced antibodies yet—which means you’ll get a false-negative result.

For the most accurate results, wait at least 21 days until after any symptoms emerge and then take the test.
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Which other countries have coronavirus test kits?

Tests are a key tool to help us beat this virus, which means that test kits are being ordered across Europe, in the US and elsewhere around the globe. South Korea has been leading the way with this approach and is testing 20,000 people per day. Germany is testing tens of thousands of people each day too.
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Will coronavirus test kits be available on the NHS?

The NHS is already using tests that pick up current infections (the PCR test) for patients who show severe symptoms of coronavirus. This is so they can tailor their treatment for them appropriately.

At the time of writing (21 April 2020), it’s unclear if or when the ELISA and lateral flow immunoassay (rapid) tests will be available on the NHS, either for key workers or for the general public.
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How does a coronavirus home test kit work, and how do I get one?

For the ELISA test (the most reliable at-home testing option), you’ll need to prick your finger with a special tool inside the kit. It’s a small, brief sting that produces a few drops of blood that you collect in a little tube. You then send your blood sample off to a lab.

The lateral flow immunoassay (rapid) tests can be conducted at home too. However, due to their unreliability, the UK government is cautioning people against using them.

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What happens if I test positive?

If you test positive, it means that you’ve already been exposed to coronavirus.

Experts are working hard to determine whether this means you have developed immunity to coronavirus, and whether you can still pass it on to someone else. At the time of writing (21 April 2020), there’s no definitive answer for either question.

For this reason, it doesn’t mean that you can stop self-isolating if you test positive. You should check the latest government guidelines and NHS advice on this.

In taking this test, you accept full responsibility for the meaning of test results and any necessary actions that arise from test results. The Healthpath team can offer no advice. Again, it is essential that you follow the government and NHS guidelines.
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What happens if I test negative?

If you test negative, it’s likely that you have not yet been exposed coronavirus and therefore could still catch the virus, suffer symptoms and transmit it to other people.

We at Healthpath are not in the position to offer advice on what to do next. Always check government guidelines and NHS advice for the latest instructions.
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How to get a Healthpath coronavirus test kit

You can register interest for the coronavirus ELISA test, and we can send you one as soon as it becomes available. After you take the test and post your blood sample to the lab, you’ll get results within 72 hours.

You can also register interest for the lateral flow immunoassay test. We will only sell this test if its accuracy improves and it gains government approval. If it does become approved for at-home use, you can get results within ten minutes.

Why is Healthpath selling a coronavirus test kit?

Effective testing is critical if we’re going to beat coronavirus together. It’s also a contentious issue. We at Healthpath are aware of the criticism surrounding private companies attempting to profiteer from coronavirus testing, and we get it.

We’re a values-led company, which is why this test is priced at no profit to us. We questioned whether we should offer a coronavirus test even on that basis. But we also recognise that we’re a company set up to provide testing—and we should do our part to help during this unsettling period. We’ve worked closely with an accredited UK lab to offer the most accurate and reliable coronavirus test available.

We’re cheering on the NHS and its plans to ramp up testing for everyone soon. Until then, we hope this limited number of tests can provide certainty and reassurance to those who need it most.

Key takeaways

  • There are three main tests for coronavirus: ELISA, PCR and lateral flow immunoassay
  • PCR tells you whether you have an active infection, and is only available through prescription
  • ELISA and lateral flow immunoassay tests tell you whether you’ve already been exposed to coronavirus. They should soon be available for at-home use
  • The ELISA test is more accurate, and you need to send your blood sample off to a lab. You’ll get results within 72 hours
  • The lateral flow immunoassay test is currently deemed unreliable, and is not recommended for use
  • The ELISA test detects antibodies to coronavirus, which means you can take it too early (before your body has been able to produce antibodies to the virus). For best accuracy, wait for at least 21 days after symptoms emerge and then take the test
  • Whether you get a positive or a negative result from a test, it’s essential that you follow government guidelines and NHS advice for coronavirus

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Author

Alexandra Falconer MA (Dist) DipCNM mBANT is a Registered Nutritional Therapist specialising in IBS and related conditions. A graduate of Brighton’s College of Naturopathic Medicine, she is committed to fighting the root causes of chronic illness and bringing functional medicine to everyone who needs it.

Before her natural health career, Alex was a journalist and copywriter. She continues to write for magazines and media agencies, and now combines her two great passions—writing and health—by creating content that empowers people to claim their right to a healthy body and mind.

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