COVID testing – your questions answered

UPDATED: Friday 4 December 2020

Liverpool community testing or SMART (Smart Asymptomatic Meaningful Repeated Testing) update – 8:30am, Friday 4 December

  • 120,702 Liverpool residents tested using lateral flow
  • 70,932 Liverpool residents tested using PCR
  • In addition, 34,424 people from neighbouring areas have been tested using lateral flow
  • There have been 1,158 positive lateral flow tests – 822 of which have been Liverpool residents

Testing period: 12 midday, 6th November 2020 – 8:30am, 4 December 2020. Provisional data – small changes may occur due to data cleansing and validation.

IMPORTANT: If you test positive using a ‘lateral flow’ test you must self-isolate and book a PCR test to confirm if you are infected with the virus (the message you receive won’t automatically advise you to do this). You can do this at

Everyone living or working in Liverpool is asked to get a COVID-19 test, whether they have symptoms or not, in the first pilot of whole city testing in England.

People are asked to take two tests during the pilot study – about a week apart.

The community testing, or Systematic Meaningful Asymptomatic Repeated Testing (SMART), will help test the approach of repeat (serial) testing of the population on a large-scale for COVID-19. The pilot will enable us to gather lessons to inform use of this approach going forward for communities.

Through this pilot, we aim to identify people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms but who are infectious and could spread the infection to others unknowingly. Identifying and supporting infectious people to isolate before they develop symptoms will help reduce spread.

The pilot will also help us explore the use of new rapid testing technology – known as ‘lateral flow tests’ – and their potential application in a range of scenarios.

These could include releasing key workers from quarantine, enabling children to stay at school, or, protecting care home residents from infection.

The lessons we learn will help us over time to reduce the impact of COVID-19 control measures, as well as reduce the spread of the virus, and protect the vulnerable.

Here we answer some of the questions you may have…we will add more information as we get it, so please check back regularly.

Why was Liverpool chosen?

Liverpool City Council invited the Department of Health and Social Care to work with it on a mass testing pilot due to the high number of cases of coronavirus in the city.

The high number of cases led to the city being put under tier 3 restrictions on 14 October.

Like the rest of the country, Liverpool was then put under national lockdown restrictions on 5 November.

The initiative is being led by Liverpool City Council, with central government supporting operationally.

Where can I get tested?

There are testing sites across the city, which are mainly open from 7am-7pm (unless otherwise indicated) for people with no Covid-19 symptoms to drop in for a test.

There is no appointment system. There may be socially-distanced queues at these locations.

Find out today’s centres, and how busy they are, here:

You need a mobile number or email address to register when you arrive.

It is very important that you do not attend these sites if you have COVID-19 symptoms, i.e. high temperature, a new continuous cough, and loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

These centres should only be attended by people who are not displaying symptoms.

People without symptoms will also be offered drive-through appointments at other mobile testing units in the city, to maximise capacity. Anyone displaying coronavirus symptoms must book a test via and cannot attend the mass testing centres.

Can I get a test delivered to my home instead of going to a test-site?

Yes, you can order a home test kit by calling 119. You will be sent a verification code by text or email. If you do not have a mobile phone or email, you can still order a home test kit by calling 119. You can nominate somebody else to receive the verification code on your behalf but they must be with you whilst you make the phone call to 119.

How can I get tested if I have coronavirus symptoms?

If you have coronavirus symptoms, book a test via or or by phoning 119. You cannot attend the mass testing centres listed above.

Who is eligible to get tested in the pilot study?

We encourage anyone who lives or works in Liverpool to get tested.

Can children and young people take part?

Yes, primary school aged children can get tested at mass testing sites listed above if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Children and young people under 18 will need parental consent.

The council is working with partners and the school nursing service to facilitate the voluntary programme within secondary schools. Participating schools are sending consent letters home to parents/guardians of children and young people asking if they are willing to consent to their child being tested. If parents do not wish their child to have a test, that is fine.

During the pilot, the military are helping to set up and run the testing process in schools.

Do I have to get a test?

Absolutely not. We are hoping that many people will recognise the benefits of getting involved in the pilot to reduce the spread of the virus in their communities.

What are the tests?

There are two types of tests being used – both involve taking swabs of the inside of your nose and back of the throat, using a long cotton bud. You can do the swab yourself if you are aged 12 or over.

The gold standard test for COVID-19 is the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. It detects viral genetic material called RNA. It is very accurate. The test is processed in a laboratory. You can expect to receive your result within a few days.

Lateral flow tests are rapid turnaround tests that are processed on site without any need for sending samples to a laboratory. The staff at the test sites have received special training to carry out the processing. Results are ready very quickly – from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. You will receive your results by text or email soon after you leave the test centre.

How accurate is the new lateral flow test?

Extensive clinical evaluation shows lateral flow tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community, including for asymptomatic people. See:

Lateral flow tests have been found to be highly sensitive in identifying those with high viral loads, meaning they are effective in identifying the cases who are infectious and are most likely to transmit the disease. The fast turnaround also allows positive people to isolate quickly, also reducing spread.

PCR tests are the gold standard test and the most accurate test for detecting infection.

The type of lateral flow test being used in Liverpool is called Innova. Results of the Innova evaluation published on 11 November show:

• The specificity of the test was recorded as 99.68% – the overall false positive rate was 0.32%, although this was lowered to 0.06% in a lab setting

• The sensitivity is 58% for all PCR-positive people when performed by self-trained individuals and 73% when performed by health care workers but detects over 95% of individuals with high viral loads, and minimal difference between the ability of the test to pick up viral antigens in symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals

Sensitivity means the proportion of people with a disease that have a positive test, whereas specificity means the proportion of people without the disease that have a negative test.

There is a third type of test – LAMP tests – which are used in some health and social care settings. We are not using these as part of the mass-testing pilot.

What happens if I test positive?

You will receive your result from NHS Test and Trace, via text message and email.

As part of the pilot, if you test positive using a ‘lateral flow’ test you must self-isolate and book a PCR test to confirm if you are infected with the virus (the message you receive won’t automatically advise you to do this). You can do this at

This is because there is a possibility that some people who test positive with LFT are “false positive” and the gold standard PCR test will identify these.

If the confirmatory PCR test result is negative, then you will no longer be required to self-isolate, and your contacts will no longer need to quarantine. You will still need to adhere to the national restrictions in place at that time (e.g. lockdown restrictions).

If the confirmatory PCR test comes back positive, then you must continue to isolate for 10 days since your initial ‘lateral flow’ test. Everyone in your household will be a ‘close contact’ and must also self-isolate for 14 days. Contact tracing will be initiated through the NHS or local contact tracing team and other close contacts will be advised to quarantine for 14 days.

Can I get financial help if I test positive?

Yes – eligible individuals who test positive through the pilot will be entitled to the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment in the same way as a regular swab test through NHS Test and Trace.

Please note the government has laid down eligibility criteria and they are set out here, along with details of how to apply:

What support is available if I have to isolate

Please ask family, friends, neighbours or anyone else that you can call on first if you need support to isolate. This will help us to prioritise support for people who have no other means of supporting themselves. If you need support, we can help you to:
• find an emergency foodbank
• get help with your shopping
• ask for prescriptions to be collected
• chat to a friendly volunteer because you are lonely
• improve your mental health
• get help with an alcohol issue or stopping smoking
• ask for advice about an employment issue

You can contact us to ask for support either through our website: or by calling 0151 233 3066. Our lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.

What happens if I test negative?

You must continue to follow the preventative measures currently recommended for stopping the spread of the virus.

As you know, England is currently under national lockdown until the 2nd of December. You must continue to stay at home and avoid meeting people you do not live with, except for specific purposes. To protect yourself and others, you must remember:
Hands. Face. Space.

• Hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.

• Face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

• Space – Stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble

If my result is negative, can I go and visit my mum in her care home? Or meet up with my friends?

Not at the moment. The lateral flow tests are quick, but come with some risk of getting a false negative result. A negative test does not rule out coronavirus infection. Through this pilot we will find out more about the tests work when being used on a large-scale.

Based on what we know at the moment, if we assume that 2% of the population of Liverpool is currently infected with coronavirus, 1 in 100 people in Liverpool who test negative using lateral flow test will actually have the infection. Just to give you an idea of what this means, if we test today the entire Anfield stadium (54,000 people) and all of them test negative, 540 of them will be false negative.

So although they test negative, they actually have the virus and could infect others. They are unlikely to be highly infectious, as lateral flow tests have been evaluated as very good at detecting people with high viral loads.

A negative lateral flow test does not constitute a “green pass” and does not change the current rules we all need to follow during the national lockdown.

For meeting up with friends, you are allowed to meet one other person outside of your household during the current lockdown, in an outdoor space, following 2 metres social distancing rule.

A process is being piloted to allow safe visiting in a few care homes in Liverpool following a strict testing regime for registered visitors. Lateral flow tests will be used in these care homes to reduce the risk of spread of infection to residents.

How does the MAST pilot study work with the NHS app?

Positive results from tests will be collected by NHS Test and Trace, and published as part of the daily case numbers, including how many positive cases are detected with this new method of testing. NHS COVID-19 app users should input their results into the app.

How long will the pilot last?

This phase of the pilot is expected to last until the end of November.

Is that long enough to make a difference?

The purpose of the pilot is to understand how successful the approach is approach is compared with any other pilots. The findings of the pilot will be reviewed to understand how successful it has been, whether it this has made a difference to virus transmission in Liverpool, and any lessons about how this approach could be improved

Why is the army involved?

We do not have the staff numbers needed to run the testing programme, so we have invited the army to support us with setting up and running the programme. They are also providing logistical support.

How many times should I get tested?

We advised you get tested and get tested again. Please wait at least 5 days between your tests.

Could you run out of tests?

No. We have capacity to issue thousands of Lateral Flow tests and PCR tests each day for the duration of the pilot.

I have been offered a test which I have to pay for – is this one of yours?

No. All the COVID-19 tests that are part of the pilot scheme are free.

Mental Health Support

In these unsettling times people may be feeling anxious, angry, sad or confused. Asking for help can make a huge difference. We have made it easier for people to find the right level of mental health support. For help and support please direct people here.

Liverpool Waterfront